Ukiyoe Painting

BY : MystIc19
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1053
Disclaimer: I do not own FF7 or any of the FF7 characters. I do not make any profit in writing these fanfictions.





 

 

 

 

            “Hold this
right there for me. Steady,” Natsumi explained while taking a few pins and
sticking them into the silk fabric.

            “Mom be
careful that’s my hand,” Cloud started while moving his hand to another part of
the fabric to avoid the sharp needle.

            “I see
you,” Natsumi dismissed with a small chuckle. This was how it was every year
when the Cherry Blossom Festival neared. Natsumi would always set out to make
the nicest kimono for her family to wear to the event, and Cloud always got
roped into being his mom’s assistant as she sewed the garments.

            “So, how’s
your painting coming along?” Natsumi asked while placing a pin carefully
between her teeth before leaning back in with another and stitching together
the seams.

            “I didn’t
start on it,” Cloud replied while adjusting his hands once more on the
material, keeping his blue eyes focused on his mom’s expert movements.

            “What?”
Natsumi asked while lifting her gaze briefly to look at Cloud, “you can’t start
on something like that so late.”

            “I never
said I was actually going to do it,” Cloud explained. He had told his mom about
Aerith’s suggestion to submit a painting at the festival, but now that he had
his mom had only been pushing him further to do it. It wasn’t that he didn’t
want to but he still hadn’t even tried a painting yet, and he wasn’t sure his
first one he would want to put on display like that. Besides, he was lacking
the real motivation to do it; he still didn’t even know what it was he would do
if he did begin.

            “Stalling
will get you nowhere,” Natsumi continued while taking the pin out from between
her teeth. “What if I waited until the last moment to work on these? They would
look like rags!”

            Cloud let
out a brief laugh while shaking his head. Even if his mom did start late on
them he was sure they wouldn’t look like rags, since he was little he knew that
his mom was a great seamstress and everything she did was practically flawless.
Maybe that’s where he got his perfectionism from when it came to his art.

            “Alright, I
guess that’s good enough for now,” Natsumi began while leaning back slightly to
look at the incomplete garment, “I should be starting dinner.”

            “Okay,”
Cloud replied while letting go of the fabric he had been holding in place for
his mom while she stitched away. “Do you need help?”

            “No I’ve
got it,” Natsumi said with a smile before patting Cloud’s cheek, “you’ve been
more than enough help for today. But you could feed Tama for me.”

            Nodding
Cloud made his way into the kitchen where he retrieved the cat’s small dish and
filled it with some of the left over fish from the night before. He didn’t even
have to call out for her before she was trotting over towards him once she
caught the smell in the air, her little bell tinkling all the way. He scratched
her behind her ears for a moment as she ate and then he had made his way down
the hall into his room. He really hadn’t had much time lately to just be able
to lounge around in there, the past few days had been sort of busy.

            His lessons
had picked up, not to mention he was still trying to catch up from the things
he missed when he was sick. He had gone into town with his mom the other day to
get more of the fabric she would need, and his dad had asked him to come to his
office after that to help him with some things. That left very little time for
him in the evening, and that meant that he only got to see Zack briefly. After
all he had a whole bunch of things he was doing too. He had mentioned to Cloud
that Angeal had mentioned something about possibly sending him away again,
although he wasn’t sure when or if it was actually going to happen. But it was
still something that Cloud didn’t want to hear.

            And Zack
seemed pretty reluctant about it too. Since Cloud had told him what he did
about Hojo, the blonde could tell that Zack seemed very wary to let Cloud out
of his sight. And if he did he needed to know exactly where he was going to be.
But Cloud didn’t really blame him; he had lied to him after all. He still felt
guilty about that but he really felt like he had no other choice at the time.

            Letting out
a sigh he took a seat on his bed before glancing across the room and looking at
the blank canvas that was resting against the wall. He had the time now to
attempt something, but he still didn’t know. However he didn’t think on it too
long before the sound of the front door slamming caught his attention. He heard
his mom say something in a surprised tone, but he wasn’t worried when he heard
her say “Saito.” He was just about to dismiss his father’s loud entrance but
then he heard footsteps’ getting closer to his room before his door was quickly
slid open.

            His father
was standing in the doorframe, his eyes angry and his brows knitted together in
the way they always did when he was upset. Only thing was Cloud didn’t know why
his dad was upset now…and why did it seem to be directed at him?

            Cloud
didn’t say anything; he simply looked up to his dad from his spot on the bed,
his eyes silently questioning what was wrong.

            “You are
not to go anywhere outside of this house anymore unless you get permission from
me,” Saito explained firmly, “the only exception is your lessons and straight
after that you come back home.”

            Eyes
widening slightly Cloud stared back in silence. He knew his dad really never
liked him staying out late, and there was some days when he told him he wanted
him straight back home…but he never completely confined him this way.

            “Why?”
Cloud asked softly.

            “Because I said so,” Saito replied before turning
and walking out of the room.

            The only
thing that Cloud could do was stare at the spot that his father had just been
standing. What was that all about? Cloud was sure he hadn’t done anything to
warrant his father’s aggression, he made sure to mind him just so that things
like this wouldn’t happen. Standing up he walked over to the door before
closing it again, a frown settled on his face. There was no way he could stay
in the house all the time! Why was his dad trying to keep him locked up like
some prisoner?

            He stayed
in his room until his mother called him for dinner, and even then he remained
quiet at the table as his parents talked. His mom tried to get him to talk a
few times but he only kept his responses short and so she finally gave up after
a while. Saito on the other hand didn’t seem to be fazed at all by Cloud’s down
mood. Once he was finished he asked to be excused and went back into his room
where he flopped on his bed and glared up at the ceiling. He stayed that way
for a while, even dozing off for a moment before waking up once he thought he
heard a knock at the front door.

            Sitting up
he strained his hearing to see if he could hear anything else, and sure enough
he heard his mom’s cheerful voice as she greeted the guest. He instantly perked
up once he realized that it was Zack at the door and he slid off his bed before
making his way across the room. Sliding open his door he was surprised to see
his father emerging from his room as well as he made his way down the hall.
Cloud followed behind him until they reached the entrance where Zack and
Natsumi were currently talking.

            “Are you
sure you’re not hungry? We have plenty left over from dinner,” Natsumi offered
with a smile.

            “I’m fine
really Auntie,” Zack replied with a laugh, “thank you.”

            “Well
okay,” Natsumi spoke before noticing Cloud and Saito stepping into the room.

            “Good
evening Zack,” Saito spoke while turning his focus to the Samurai.

            “Uncle,”
Zack started with a brief bow to the man.

            “I heard
you may be going away. I’m surprised to see you,” Saito continued while
narrowing his eyes slightly.

            “Well I may
be,” Zack started, “but I haven’t gotten word on when I’ll be heading out, if I
do at all.”

            “I see,”
Saito replied before Cloud moved from behind him to step closer to Zack. He had
just given the other a smile when he felt his father’s arm reach out to block
him from stepping forward any further. Stopping Cloud looked up to his dad and
gave him a questioning look.

            “I’m sorry
Zack,” Saito began seriously, “but I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to
leave.”

            The look
that crossed Zack’s face at that moment could only be described as confusion.

            “Saito!”
Natsumi snapped while giving her husband an annoyed look.

            “Dad what
are you-” Cloud started before his father continued, turning his gaze towards
Cloud.

            “You’re no
longer to see him anymore. Here or otherwise,” Saito explained before turning
his focus back towards Zack.

            “What are
you talking about?” Cloud instantly asked as his eyes widened. No longer see
Zack? Was his father crazy!?

            “I don’t
need to explain myself,” Saito replied, “you’d be wise not to push this matter
any further, you’ll only make me angry.”

            “Saito,”
Natsumi began unsurely while shifting her eyes between the three before her.

            “Zack.”
Saito spoke with a nod while fixing his gaze on the other.

            What had
just happened? Zack wasn’t sure, and he wanted more than anything to tell Saito
that he wasn’t going anywhere. But he really had no right to do so, and he
couldn’t disrespect the man in his own house.

            “I,” Zack
began before turning his gaze towards Cloud who looked completely stunned at
the moment. “I understand,” Zack finished while giving the man a bow.

            “Zack!”
Cloud shouted just before Zack turned to leave. No way, what was he doing? He
couldn’t just go…he couldn’t! Once Zack had stepped out of the residence Saito
moved to close the door behind him, preparing to walk back down the hall as if
nothing at all had happened.

            “No!” Cloud
suddenly shouted, “You can’t do that!”

            Stopping in
his tracks Saito turned and gave Cloud an icy glare. “You want to raise your
voice to me?”

            At the moment
Cloud didn’t care. He was always respectful of his parents and actually pretty
scared of his father at times. But this? There was no way he was just going to
sit by and let that happen.

            “He’s my
best friend! Why would you say that?” Cloud continued before Natsumi walked
over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

            “Saito I
don’t understand,” his mother began with a shake of her head.

            “Natsumi,
let me handle this,” Saito replied while sending the woman a look that told her
not to stick her nose into the matter.

            “It doesn’t
matter I won’t let you do this!” Cloud began while moving towards the door.

            “Step out
of this house and you’ll be sorry,” Saito said sternly. “Zack was able to
respect me and my own son can’t even do the same?”

            Halting at
his father’s words he let them sink in. True, Zack had seemed surprised by his
father’s words but he didn’t make a scene and he respectfully listened to his
request. But…it wasn’t that easy! Why was his father suddenly taking everything
from him? It didn’t make any sense at all.

            “I won’t
allow for such a relationship to continue,” Saito spoke before finally turning
and continuing down the hall to his room.

            Such a relationship…

            Turning
away from the door Cloud stood in shock as he realized what his father had just
said to him. He…knew? But how?  Cloud
couldn’t think of anyway that his dad would think something more was going on
between Zack and him. They had been friends for so long and they’re spending
time together was nothing out of the ordinary, they always appeared casual when
around others. So how…

            “Cloud,”
Natsumi began while walking over towards him and wrapping her arms around him.
“I’m not sure what’s got your father so angry at the moment, but he’ll calm
down soon enough. Zack’s your best friend. He wouldn’t keep you two apart.”

            However
Cloud didn’t take much comfort at all in those words from his mother, because
he knew once his father had made up his mind about something it was almost
impossible for him to be swayed.

xxx

 

 

            Staring
blankly at his notebook Cloud was only vaguely aware that he was supposed to be
writing something down in it. But he couldn’t concentrate on his lesson at the
moment, he had way too many other things on his mind and he honestly didn’t
care at all about his lessons. In fact this morning he wanted to just stay home
and flat out refuse going to lessons just to make his father angry. But even he
knew that that would only make matters worse, and honestly it just wasn’t in
Cloud’s nature to try to test his father like that. Although that still didn’t
change the fact that he didn’t feel like doing anything at all during this
time. He would go to his lessons like he was supposed to, but it didn’t mean he
would participate.

            “Cloud?”
Aerith asked quietly while peering over at the blank page before him. “Do you
need some help?”

            “No,” Cloud
snapped back quickly before turning away more from the girl. He didn’t want to
talk to her, he didn’t want her help…he didn’t even want to look at her.
Because he knew….he just knew that it
was Aerith that had mentioned something about Zack and him. It was the only
thing that made sense! Aerith was the only one who would have motive to do so,
she was the only one who would gain from separating the two, and she was the
one who was out in the garden that day! And who knew, maybe she never even
completely really left, maybe she had stayed behind and spied on the two or
something. Cloud wasn’t really sure, but the only thing he knew was that she
must’ve told someone. Perhaps the Magistrate? And of course with him being on
the council word would get to his father quickly.

            “Are you
okay?” Aerith asked quietly before looking over to their teacher who was
occupied in reading some sort of notes.

            Cloud
didn’t respond and only continued to stare down at his open notebook, wishing
for the time to go by so he could leave this place and get away from Aerith.

            Frowning
slightly Aerith reached out, planning to place a gentle hand on Cloud’s
shoulder but she reconsidered and dropped her hand beside her. There was obviously
something bothering Cloud but he didn’t seem to want to talk at all. She
wondered if it had anything to do with Zack, after all that last time that she
had seen the two of them it seemed like there was some sort of tension in the
air.

            The sound of
the door opening caused Cloud to shift his eyes in that direction. He was
slightly surprised to see Kunsel enter of all people.

            “Excuse
me,” Kunsel said to the teacher with a brief bow, “I was asked to deliver a
message to Cloud Strife. It’s from the Chamberlain.”

            “Alright,”
the teacher replied with a gesture of her hand, allowing Kunsel to enter into
the room fully. The few other students in the room finally dropped their gazes
back to their work as Kunsel made his way over towards Cloud, note in hand.

            “It’s from
Zack,” Kunsel said, leaning down and whispering into Cloud’s ear while setting
the note on the table in front of him.

            Cloud’s
eyes widened noticeably and he quickly picked up the note before looking to
Kunsel and nodding. “Thank you.”

            The Samurai
gave a smile before pulling back. He gave a small nod to Aerith who gave him a
smile before he was crossing the room and heading back out into the castle.

            Quickly
unfolding the paper, although quietly, Cloud let his eyes scan the note.

            If you can manage it, please meet me at
Angeal’s quarters after your lessons. I’ll be waiting there for you. And it’s
probably a good idea after you read this note to destroy it.

            “Takako Sensei!” Cloud blurted
before tearing up the small note while looking over to his teacher who lowered
the papers she was reading and gave Cloud an odd look.

            “I’m
sorry,” Cloud continued while rising from his seat and giving a bow, “but may I
be excused early? Something came up and my father needs to see me as soon as
possible.”

            Hesitating
for a moment the woman gave a nod, “That’s fine Cloud, why don’t you just hand
me what you’ve finished so far before you go.”

            “Uh,” Cloud
started while looking down to the blank page once more, “if it’s okay I’d
really like to finish it. I can hand it in first thing tomorrow.”

            “That’s
fine,” Takako replied with a smile while a few of the other students let out
quiet whines. The woman really had no problem with letting Cloud turn in work later, he had always been one of her best students. Many of
the kids of council members thought that they could just sail through their
work without putting much effort into it simply because of their position, but
not Cloud.

            “Thank
you!” Cloud said once more with a bow before picking up his notebook and
heading towards the door. He thought he heard Aerith say goodbye quietly to
him, but he didn’t turn around to see or reply back.

            Stepping
out into the castle halls he quickly made his way towards Angeal’s quarters.
True Zack told him to come after lessons but Cloud couldn’t wait that long. And
aside from that his father told him he needed to be home right away after
lessons, and even though his father should be working if he found out that he
wasn’t home when he was supposed to it would only make things worse. So Cloud
was hoping that Zack was already at Angeal’s, he needed for him to be.

            He barely
even said a word to anyone who greeted him in the halls and instead just gave a
rushed bow without even stopping his steps. Finally making his way to the
Samurai’s quarters he lifted a small fist and knocked rapidly. He partly
wondered if Angeal was there or not, but it didn’t matter to him either way. He
was greeted with silence and a frown settled on his face before he continued to
knock. Was Zack not here yet? It looked like he had come too soon. Letting out
a sigh he leaned his head against the door briefly before reaching down and
pulling on the door to slide it open. He figured it would be okay if he went
inside, Zack was expecting him so what would it matter if he waited inside?
Besides, he had spent enough time here when Zack was away to be familiar with
the place.

            Stepping
into the living room after removing his shoes he looked about the residence,
noting that it was indeed vacant. But no sooner than he had realized that did
he hear the sound of the door sliding open and shutting softly.

            Staring at
the entry way he waited for whoever it was that had entered to come into view.
Was it Zack? Angeal?

            “Cloud?”
The Samurai asked as his blue eyes widened, clearly not expecting to see the
younger one here so soon.

            “Zack,”
Cloud breathed while dropping his notebook to the floor without a second
thought before rushing over and throwing his arms around the other.

            Zack
returned the embrace, pulling the boy closer against him and holding him
tightly. It felt like it had been forever since he had held him in his arms
this way, even if it really had only been a matter of days. In his book, that
was far too long.

            “I wasn’t
expecting you until later,” Zack started, “if at all. I wasn’t sure you would
come.”

            “Of course
I’d come,” Cloud replied quickly while pulling back slightly to look up at
Zack, “I left from lessons early…I just had to see you.”

            “Cloud,”
Zack began while pulling Cloud back to him. The blond wrapped his arms even
more tightly around his boyfriend while letting out a sigh of content. They
didn’t say anything for a while, simply holding each other and soaking in the
comfort that the other one gave. When they were like this they could
temporarily shut out the rest of the world and not have a worry. But…it was
only temporary.

            Pulling
away once more Cloud looked up at Zack again, but this time there was a certain
look in his eyes. A look that Zack couldn’t exactly place, that is until those
golden eyebrows knitted together and that mouth twisted into a pout of sorts.
It was a look that Zack was all too familiar with, a look that clearly meant
Cloud was angry. But before Zack could question him at all Cloud’s lips had
already parted.

            “Why did
you just walk out like that yesterday!?” Cloud asked while pushing against
Zack’s chest to put a little distance between them. “It was like you
didn’t…care.”

            “Cloud,”
Zack said while shaking his head. “You know that’s not it at all. It’s just I
had no idea what your dad was talking about, and he seemed angry enough. The
last thing I wanted to do was give him even more
reason to keep us apart if I upset him and disrespected him in any way.”

            “I can
understand that,” Cloud replied softly. He guessed that was why Zack was more
mature than he was, while Cloud had had an outburst from his father’s words
Zack was able to remain calm and look at it from all angles, cutting down any
more damage than was necessary.

            “Although I
don’t know why he said that,” Zack continued while wrapping his arms around
Cloud once more.

            “I do,”
Cloud said while leaning against his lover’s strong chest.

            “Hmm?”

            “He knows
about us,” Cloud explained while shutting his eyes.

            “What?”
Zack asked while looking down to Cloud who opened his eyes and turned them upward
again. He simply nodded, keeping sad blue eyes on the other as he tightened his
grip around his waist.

            “No,” Zack
said with a brief laugh, “there’s no way. How could he?”

            “Zack he
told me,” Cloud continued, “and he said he wouldn’t let a relationship like
ours continue.”

            Zack felt
his stomach drop at those words. He understood Saito was a proud man, and he
already had his problems with Cloud choosing a different path rather than what
he had envisioned for him. So with finding out about this? It probably seemed
like the final straw to him. But Zack couldn’t help but to wonder, if Saito
weren’t Chamberlain…would it really even matter?

            “How?” Zack
asked, still feeling completely floored with the
information.

            “Aerith,”
Cloud spat while letting go of Zack. Turning around he walked over to the
window and peered down into the courtyard. “Who else could it be?”

            “Aerith?”
Zack began with a raised eyebrow, “she doesn’t know.”

            “Oh yeah she does,” Cloud replied while
turning back around to face Zack, his arms crossed over his chest. “That day
when you came out into the garden she was there. She saw enough, and who else
besides her was there? Maybe she saw and heard more than we thought! I mean is
it really a coincidence that not much longer from then does my dad throw this
at us?”

            Letting the
information sink in Zack ran a hand through his hair. Would Aerith really do
that? She was their friend, surely she wouldn’t say anything to anyone right?
Even if she did harbor a small crush for Zack, would she really be so cold as
to purposely try to cause problems for both Cloud and he? Zack honestly didn’t
know, but he did have to admit it was a bit of a coincidence.

            “Damn it,”
Zack sighed with a shake of his head, “I didn’t think…I mean that day I just…”
trailing off slightly he took a seat before running his hands over his face.
“This is my fault.” If only he hadn’t let his anger get to him so much that day
then he never would’ve stormed out there into the garden like that. And he
especially should’ve kept his cool with her there. He didn’t think she would’ve
seen much but…then again who knew. Maybe from the way he grabbed Cloud’s hand?
His tone, the look in his eyes? Or maybe it was Cloud’s look or tone…something
that hinted to something more. And maybe Cloud was right, maybe Aerith really
didn’t leave and had been watching them or something after the fact. Then of
course she saw more than just “friendship” between the two.

            “No,” Cloud
said softly while making his way over towards Zack. He knew he was feeling
guilty and blaming himself for things, and he really shouldn’t have been.
Sitting down beside Zack he gently placed a hand on the side of his face
causing Zack to look at him. “If it’s anyone’s fault it’s mine,” he explained.

            “Cloud,”
Zack started before Cloud was quickly shaking his head.

            “Yeah you
were upset that day…but it was because of me,” Cloud continued before dropping
his gaze briefly, “you had every right to be. If I hadn’t been lying to you
then that would’ve never happened so…it’s my fault.”

            Leaning
against Zack, Cloud fisted his hand in the front of the Samurai’s attire. “I’m
sorry,” he said softly as he felt strong arms wrap arm around him.

            “Apology
not accepted,” Zack replied. Cloud looked at him with wide eyes and Zack
continued on. “It’s not your fault…and it’s not mine. It’s the Shogun’s. The
root of our problems is him.”

            “Fair
enough,” Cloud said with a nod. After all that was the truth. Their
relationship already had its difficulties, but they managed it well enough
before hand. Things didn’t start to get crazy until the Shogun entered the
picture, and with that added stress things had only gotten worse.

            “So what
are we going to do?” Cloud asked while resting his head under Zack’s chin as he
gently let his fingers trail across his chest.

            “Maybe we
can try to convince your dad that he’s wrong,” Zack spoke up while letting his
hand run up and down Cloud’s back. “If he did hear it from Aerith somehow…we
can tell him that she was mistaken.”

            “What if
she saw us kiss?” Cloud asked, “If she told my dad that…there’s no way we can
try to lie our way out of that.”

            “Yeah,”
Zack agreed with a sigh before Cloud shifted in his arms to wrap his arms
around Zack’s neck.

            “Zack,”
Cloud started softly with a slight waver in his voice. “I can’t…not see you. We’ve never been apart.”

            “And we’re
not going to be,” Zack replied without missing a beat. “We’ll figure this out.
Even if for a while we have to sneak around…we’ll do what we have to.”

            “Promise?” Cloud asked while looking into Zack’s eyes. The
Samurai could already see the shimmer of unshed tears in those blue eyes and he
leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss against the others lips, trying to will
away the sadness and frustration from those innocent eyes.

            “Promise,”
he whispered against Cloud’s lips before he felt small hands slide into his
hair. He pressed his lips harder against Cloud’s this time before letting his
tongue slide in and meet the others halfway. He drank in the small, soft moans
that Cloud let slip into his mouth before tightening his arms around the
smaller frame. Cloud was moving once more, keeping his arms wrapped around
Zack’s neck but moving one of his legs across the other so that he was now
right in front of him and sitting on his lap.

            Zack was
appreciative of this new position as it allowed Cloud to be pressed up against
him closely and in all the right places. His hands had already trailed down to
rest on slim hips as he felt hands run down his chest.

            “Where’s
Angeal?” Cloud asked with a blush on his cheeks once they broke their lengthy
kiss.

            “He’ll be
gone for a while,” Zack explained while pressing kisses against Cloud’s collar
bone. “He’s got meetings lined up all day today, he told me himself.”

            “Does he
know you’re here?” Cloud asked, tilting his head a bit when he felt Zack’s lips
move to his neck.

            “Yes,” Zack
replied with a nod, “I told him I needed to talk to you somewhere privately and
he was the one who recommended coming here.”

            Cloud
couldn’t help but to smile at those words. Angeal really cared about Zack and
it was clearly evident in the things he did at times.

            “But we
shouldn’t” Cloud found himself beginning to say. As much as he wanted Zack at
this moment he wasn’t sure if it was entirely right to do such a thing at
someone else’s home.

            Zack could
understand Cloud’s hesitance, it probably was a bit strange. Zack felt
comfortable at Angeal’s, it was almost like a second home. But he still sort of
felt the same, but even having said that…the thought of not being with
Cloud…especially when he wasn’t sure how long it would be until a moment like
this came again given the circumstances, he just couldn’t hold back.

            “Maybe,”
Zack continued while sliding his hands up Cloud’s sides, “but I want you more
than ever right now.”

            And that
was all it took to cause a deep blush to form on Cloud’s cheeks before they
were at it again. Removing clothes and exchanging kisses and
touches.
They made love right there on the living room floor, casting
aside their worries for the time being and giving themselves completely to each
other. It wasn’t rushed, but drawn out and savored. They each were thinking of
when this would happen again but they didn’t voice it aloud and tried to push
it to the very back of their minds. They were only able to lay in each others
arms afterwards shortly before Cloud was getting up and putting back on his
clothes.

            “I better go,” Cloud started while picking up his obi and beginning
to fasten it around his waist.

            Sitting up
Zack frowned slightly as he watched his boyfriend slip back on his clothes.
“You can’t stay any longer?”

            “No,” Cloud
continued while looking over to Zack who was now starting to redress as well,
“lessons are over by now I’m sure. And I’m supposed to go straight home after
those.”

            “Oh,” Zack
replied with a nod. They finished dressing in silence and Cloud made his way
across the room to pick up his discarded notebook. Once it was in hand he
hesitated before looking over towards Zack who had just picked back up his
sword and secured it back in its sheath. Their eyes met shortly after and Cloud
looked away a little uneasily. It shouldn’t be like this…but things suddenly
felt so strange.

            “I’d walk
back with you but…” Zack started while taking a few steps closer to Cloud.

            “I know,”
Cloud said quietly before shifting his gaze back towards Zack.

            “Right,”
Zack replied.

            “Okay,”
Cloud continued before making his way to the door and stopping halfway. No, he
couldn’t leave like this. It didn’t feel right. This wasn’t just some casual
hookup with someone…this was his boyfriend! He shouldn’t have to worry about
when would be the next time they could sneak off together just to spend time
with each other. Or worry about when would be the next time that he would be
able to be held in his arms. It was just…not
right. He suddenly felt himself become really overwhelmed, angry and sad all at
one time. While he was here with Zack for the short time he was okay, but now
that he was getting ready to leave him without knowing for sure when he would
see him again…it just hurt too much. Tears had already begun to fall from his
eyes and he turned back around towards Zack who immediately held out his arms
to him and wrapped him in a fierce embrace.

            “It’s
okay,” Zack reassured him gently while running his hands through his hair. He
was almost wondering when it would all finally hit Cloud. He had thought that
earlier he was trying to be strong and not crumble in front of him, but it
seemed as if the reality of their situation hadn’t really hit him too strongly
until they were getting ready to part.

            “When am I
going to see you again?” Cloud asked shakily between sobs while clutching onto
the other.

            “Soon,”
Zack spoke softly before placing a kiss on top of Cloud’s head, “I promise.”

            They held
onto each other for as long as they could before Cloud reluctantly began to pull
away. He knew he was already pushing it time wise and he was going to have to
race back home to make it within the appropriate time. But before he pulled
away completely Zack cupped his face and kissed him with all he had.

            “I love
you,” Zack said once they broke the kiss.

            “I love you
too,” Cloud replied while briefly letting his fingers run along the side of
Zack’s face before Zack was reaching out and wiping away the last stray tears
on the blonds’ face. Turning away Cloud made his way towards the door before
looking back once more when he had slid the door open. “Bye,” he said softly
before stepping out of Angeal’s quarters and closing the door behind him. The
last thing that Zack could hear was Cloud’s rapid footsteps going down the
hallway as he ran back to his house.           

           

           

xxx

           

            “Cloud,”
Natsumi’s voice drifted through the door as she tapped on it lightly, “dinner’s
ready.”

            “I’m not
hungry,” Cloud replied while leaning over the canvas and lightly sketching on
it, keeping his eyes focused and narrowed at the task at hand.

            “Sweetie
you really should eat something. Please?” Natsumi asked with concern.

            “Maybe
later,” Cloud answered while glancing over to the door.

            “Alright,”
Natsumi began, “I’ll save some for you.” And with that she walked away from the
bedroom and back down the hall. Cloud felt bad, he didn’t mean to make his
mother worry and he knew she was. This had been the routine for the past week
after all. Natsumi would make meals as usual, and Cloud would decline each and
every one. His appetite just wasn’t like it was supposed to be these days. He
would only eat just enough for energy, soup here and there and a little rice,
but he hadn’t actually sat down for meals with his family. The only time he
thought about doing so was when his father was working late, and that was only
because he didn’t want his mom to eat alone. But even then he just really
couldn’t bring himself to. He had pretty much barricaded himself up in his room
the past week and worked on his art to keep him busy. It was the only thing he
could do really to keep his mind off of things and to try to remain. Though it was still hard to accomplish.

            It had been
a week since he had seen or spoken to Zack, and that was far too long for him.
But honestly, there wasn’t much he could do. There was a reason why Zack and he
often spent nights together. Both of them were busy during the day, and the
evening was the only time that they really had for each other. And even that
wasn’t always a sure thing if Zack had other duties to attend to. But now that
Saito had said they couldn’t see each other anymore it was impossible to try to
work around that. Maybe if Cloud hadn’t been practically grounded indefinitely
it would be easy to sneak away and meet Zack somewhere, but his father wasn’t
budging on his word and Cloud had been going straight home from lessons.

            He wrote a
letter to Zack a few days back and had lingered around outside his class in the
halls hoping to catch Reno
or Kunsel passing through. Luckily he was able to nab Kunsel and gave him the
letter and asked him if he could give it to Zack. Kunsel seemed sort of
confused as to why he was becoming the “go between” with Zack and he but Cloud
just lied and said that he had been really busy and he didn’t have much time to
visit with him. The other seemed to buy it however and told Cloud he would give
the letter to Zack.

            And the
very next day Kunsel had spotted Cloud after his lessons and had given him
another letter from Zack. It was better than not having contact at all, and
Cloud was glad for it. But he also knew they couldn’t do this forever, Kunsel
wasn’t always going to be so accessible and it may start to cause suspicion
over time. And if Kunsel were to ever drop one of their letters by accident…no,
that wouldn’t be good.

            Cloud was missing
Zack terribly, and even if it had only been a week he wasn’t sure how much
longer he could do this. Zack had told him they would see each other soon but
he knew that was just words of comfort.

            Letting out
a sigh Cloud leaned back and looked at his work so far on the once blank
canvas. He had finally decided what it was he wanted to do with it. It probably
seemed simple but to him it meant the most, and now it only seemed to hold an
even greater meaning. He had decided to sketch the lake. He
and Zack’s special place.
It only made sense to him for his first
painting to be of something that he held most special in his heart, and that
was definitely it. When he thought of the lake he thought of Zack, it was the
place that kept them together always. He had drew that bad picture for Zack
before when they were kids, but this time he was going to get it right, he was
going to make it the best he could. He decided to sketch it out first before
doing any actual painting, that way he wouldn’t have to worry if he messed up
or something, he didn’t want to ruin his first canvas.

            The sound
of his door sliding open caused him to look upwards and he was met with his
father’s gaze before they shifted down towards the canvas. He knew it was his
father before even looking up however, he never knocked before entering.

            “Your
mother says you won’t eat,” Saito started while looking back towards Cloud.

            “I’m just
not hungry,” Cloud said while going back to work on his picture.

            “Well, you
don’t have you to eat dinner then,” Saito replied, still unmoving from his
spot.

            Looking up
once more Cloud gave his dad a bit of a confused look. Was his dad trying to be
nice?

            “The
Shogun’s requested your presence tonight,” Saito continued while pointing to
the canvas, “I assume it has something to do with those pictures of yours. I
think in regards to the festival coming up.”

            My presence…

            Shaking his head slowly Cloud
spoke up, “I can’t go. Besides this isn’t for the festival.”

            “What?”
Saito questioned in a stern voice. But Cloud refused to meet his gaze and just
kept his eyes looking at the canvas.

            “Cloud it
wasn’t a question, you’re going,” Saito confirmed before turning to step out of
the room.

            “No!
Please…I don’t want to,” Cloud quickly called out to his father before he had
stepped completely out of the room. Stopping Saito turned around and looked
down to his son who looked completely horrified at the thought of going and he
let out a small sigh of his own.

            “Cloud,” he
began softly, “You’ve been moping around here for the past week. And I
understand you’re angry at me, but you’re just a kid. You’ll see later what I
did was for your own good. And I’m not going to let your disgrace yourself or
our family by turning down such an invitation because you’re still upset,
you’ve done it once before and I won’t allow it again.”

            No…no, his
father was completely wrong. About everything!

            “Dad please,” Cloud continued before Saito was turning around
once more.

            “You better
get ready,” his father said before closing the door behind him and leaving
Cloud.

xxx

 

            The door
closing heavily behind him caused Cloud to jump and a new sense of fear swept
over him. He didn’t move from his current position, too nervous and scared to
do so. He had just been escorted here to the Shogun’s chambers by none other
than his assistant Elena who told his parents not to worry if Cloud came back
home a little late. But his parents didn’t seem to have any problem with it at
all, especially his father. No matter how much Cloud had begged not to come
here, all of his cries seemed to fall upon deaf ears because Saito was having
none of it. He had pretty much just tossed his son into the line of fire,
completely naïve and unaware of the situation he was putting him in.

            “Cloud?” A man’s voice called from somewhere further into
the lofty quarters, “please do come in.”

            Sucking in
a breath Cloud looked behind him to the heavy doors that had already closed
behind him when Elena left. He knew that on the other side of the doors were
the two guards who were always here in front of the Shogun’s quarters,
although he knew he would receive no help from them. Taking a few hesitant
steps down the entryway he stopped once he reached the end and was standing in
the open space of the living room. He had been in here briefly once before when
he was invited to dinner by the Shogun, but that seemed so long ago by now.
Looking towards the opposite side of the room he saw the Shogun seated and
sipping on what he assumed was a cup of hot tea.

            “You’re
Excellency,” Cloud said softly with a bow.

            “It’s very
nice to see you Cloud,” Hojo began while setting down his cup on the small
table before him, “I wanted to see you sooner but I’ve had many things to
attend to first.” Gesturing to the seat across from him the man continued, “Won’t
you join me?”

            “I’m
fine…here,” Cloud said awkwardly while keeping his eyes averted from the other.

            “You seem
troubled,” Hojo said while rising from his seat and making his way across the
room. The subtle movement caught Cloud’s attention and he turned his gaze towards
the other before taking a step back.

            “You must
be nervous,” Hojo continued when he was in front of the blond, smirking down at
him with a certain glint in his eyes. “Surely you know why I called you here.”

            When Cloud
felt fingertips ghost across his cheek he quickly turned his head and took
another step back.

            “And what’s
this?” Hojo asked while giving the other a strange look. “Are you just shy or
have you forgotten your promise so soon?”

            “Forgive me
you’re Excellency,” Cloud started with another bow, “but I cannot honor my
word. I feel as if I made that decision without knowing the full truth behind
it.”

            “Truth?” The Shogun asked while narrowing his eyes slightly.

            “Yes,”
Cloud said while carefully turning his eyes back onto the man, “I only said that
because I feared my father would lose his position on the council. But if…it
could never be in jeopardy from you then…what I said isn’t valid at all.”

            Leaning
back Hojo raked his eyes over the smaller one before crossing his arms across
his chest and letting a smile tug at the corners of his lips.

            “And what
makes you think I’m not able to jeopardize his position?” Hojo continued to
ask, almost seeming amused by it all.

            “I know you
can’t,” Cloud replied, becoming a little bolder in his response. “Shogun or not
you can’t decide that.”

            “Is that
so?” Hojo began while adjusting his glasses, “care to test me?”

            Cloud
didn’t say anything, he simply held the others gaze. He had to be bluffing;
there wasn’t anything he could to do to his father’s position. Zack had told
him even the Shogun didn’t have the power to remove someone from the council
with no reason at all, and Cloud trusted Zack. He was far more knowledgeable
about the council and how it worked than Cloud was.

             “Why the sudden change of heart?” Hojo
continued while taking a step forward. “Perhaps it has nothing to do with your
father anymore but your love for that Samurai. Maybe the guilt of the situation
started to eat away at you. Is that it?”

            Blue eyes
widened and Hojo let out a bit of a laugh.

            “I guess it
is,” he said with a tilt of his head.

            “What are
you talking about?” Cloud asked as he felt his heart begin to beat faster.

            “Zackary
Fair is it not?” Hojo asked while looking up in thought, “Hewley’s pupil, one
of the best young Samurai yet. He’s definitely made a name for himself to be so
young.”

            Cloud was
still a bit unsure as to why the Shogun seemed to know so much about Zack, and
the fact that he seemed to have known something about them was more than a
little unsettling. He was almost afraid to question more about it but the man
continued to speak, not giving him a chance to say anything even if he wanted.

            “I can
understand why you would fall for him I suppose,” Hojo said with a brief nod,
“a shame your father doesn’t approve though.”

            “My
father…” Cloud started before trailing off. How did he know that? And where did
he find it out from? Did Saito mention something to the Shogun? If it was
Aerith he knew that she wouldn’t just run off and tell the Shogun for no
reason. Not unless… “You told him?”

            “Of course
I did,” Hojo replied before reaching out a hand to run through soft golden
hair. “I knew a man like Saito would oppose to something such as that. I made
it easier for you Cloud. This way you won’t have to feel any guilt with being here
with me tonight, since the Samurai is out of the picture.”

            There was a
moment when all Cloud felt was shock and he couldn’t really do much or say
anything. All he could do was stare with wide eyes and his mouth slightly open.
The Shogun…he was the one who had told his father about he
and Zack, he was the one who had made it impossible for them to be together, he
was the one behind it all! How he found out Cloud could care less at the
moment. Once he finally got over the initial shock and surprise he immediately
tried to pull away from the fingers that were running through his hair. But
Hojo only wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him closer to him.

            “Let go!”
Cloud cried while pushing against the man. Something inside him seemed to break
and he didn’t even care if it was the Shogun or not. This man had him on
strings like a puppet and he felt like his hands were constantly tied because
he was only a kid and this man had more power than he knew. But now, at this
moment, knowing that he was the one who had took Zack away…the one person who could keep him sane
through all of this…it was too much.

            The Shogun
didn’t seem to happy at this response and a frown settled on his features
before he backed Cloud up until he was against the wall, harshly tilting his
chin upwards and leaning in close to him.

            “You’re
really trying my patience,” Hojo said lowly as Cloud squirmed beneath him.
“I’ve tried to give you several chances to accept this and come to me, but
you’re not cooperating at all.”

            A rough
kiss was pressed against Cloud’s lips and he let out a whimper before
continuing to push against the taller man, but he wouldn’t budge even a bit.

            “Do you
understand what you’ve pushed me to do?” Hojo asked once he broke the kiss,
only to continue to press kisses against the delicate skin of Cloud’s neck. “I
don’t think you realize just how nice I’ve been to you. This was never an
option for you Cloud; I could’ve taken you at any time. I always get what I
want.”

            Feeling
himself beginning to panic Cloud tried with all of his strength to push the man
away, his words only ripping more into him and making him realize his worst
fear was probably very close to coming true. Hojo only leaned against him more,
pressing more of his body weight against Cloud’s smaller frame before gripping
his wrist tightly in his hand to keep him from pushing against him.

            “I tried to
be patient and wait for you. I didn’t want to hurt you. But I’m tired of having
you make a fool of me,” Hojo continued in between kisses and heavy breathing.

            “Don’t,
please!” Cloud cried while trying to work his trapped hand away from Hojo’s
grasp as he felt the man’s hand slide in between their bodies and begin to
unfasten the obi around his waist.

            “Nobody’s
coming for you this time Cloud,” Hojo said huskily before nipping at the boy’s
ear. “Try to call for Angeal or your Samurai. They won’t come. Nor will your
father, he was more than happy to send you here after all.”

            Cloud tried
to speak, but his words got caught in his throat as tears already began to spill
down his face. The Shogun was right, there was nobody to come help him now and
there wasn’t anything he could do to
get out of this.           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           

           






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