Ukiyoe Painting

BY : MystIc19
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1072
Disclaimer: I do not own FF7 or any of the FF7 characters. I do not make any profit in writing these fanfictions.


Disclaimer: I do not own FF7 or any of the FF7 characters, however I do own this story!

Stepping into the lavish quarters Sephiroth gave a bow to Michiko, the Rhapsodos's maid. She returned the bow with a smile before gesturing the Samurai towards the hallway that lead to Genesis room.

"Thank you," Sephiroth spoke before making his way down the hall. The place was quiet considering it was midday, but Sephiroth knew that Genesis father was away at work and his mother probably in town more than likely. He stopped at the front of Genesis door and gave a soft knock. If the other was sleeping he didn't want to wake him.

"I'm not hungry Michiko," came the somewhat sleepy voice of the auburn haired youth.

"Gen?" Sephiroth asked while already beginning to slide open the door. His gaze fell onto Genesis who was sitting up in bed, his hair a complete mess and noticeable bags under his eyes.

"Sephiroth," Genesis said as his eyes widened slightly, "what are you doing here right now?"

"I was dismissed from my duties earlier than I thought," he explained while closing the door behind him. "Since it was still early I thought I'd pay you a visit."

Shaking his head Genesis shifted in bed, "I appreciate the thought but you really shouldn't be here right now...not today."

Quickly crossing the room towards the bed Sephiroth took a seat on it and cupped Genesis cheek with his hand. He immediately became worried at Genesis appearance and knew that something was the matter.

"What's wrong?" He asked gently.

Looking into green eyes Genesis carefully removed the hand from his face. "I'm not feeling particularly well."

Moving his hand towards the younger ones forehead Sephiroth frowned. "You don't seem to have a fever."

"Even so," Genesis mumbled. "I don't feel shouldn't be here when I'm like this. I don' you to see."

"Genesis," Sephiroth started with a sigh. He knew that the other never liked to show his weak side, and since he fell ill often, he didn't usually like to have the other around. Or at least so he would say, but Sephiroth knew that he was glad for his presence. However this seemed a bit different from the times that Sephiroth had seen Genesis ill. He looked...exhausted. The distinct bags under his eyes were a clear indication of that, and his rumpled hair was a given that he definitely was having a restless sleep, if not any rest at all. But with no fever, what was ailing him that was keeping him awake?

Running his thumbs across the bags under those blue eyes Sephiroth continued. "You need to rest love. I'm staying right here with you," he confirmed, dismissing Genesis statement that he shouldn't be there.

There was a brief pause as Genesis held the others gaze, and then he was nodding before moving in towards Sephiroth, getting wrapped up into his strong arms as he rested against his chest. The Samurai shifted them just a bit so that he was leaning back against the headboard of the bed and Genesis was at a more comfortable angle to lay down against him. He placed a soft kiss in the messy auburn tresses before moving his hand up and down Genesis back, trying to lure him into a comfort so that he would drift off to sleep. He had to have been awake for a while to look so tired. Although the bit of redness he saw in his eyes made him wonder if it was all in fact just from a lack of sleep. Or could it have also been from...tears?

"Isn't that right Sephiroth?"

Blinking briefly the General turned his gaze towards the Shogun who was giving him a bit of a questioning look from his seat at the end of the conference table.

"Forgive me your Excellency I didn't quite catch that," he explained from across the room where he was standing beside the entrance.

The man gave a bit of a chuckle while adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose. "I was simply explaining to Saito here that the whereabouts of his son, while still very much a mystery are in capable hands. With you leading the Samurai again I know that you are giving them substantial orders on seeing this through. As well as Angeal. We couldn't have better people overseeing this."

"Yes," Sephiroth replied while shifting his gaze towards Saito who was seated across from the Shogun. "I assure you that the search for your son is being handled with the best care."

"Thank you," Saito responded with a brief bow, "that means very much to me and my wife."

"I'm sure it has not been easy," Sephiroth spoke, "losing a loved one in any aspect is a painful experience. I'm not a stranger to it myself." Looking back towards the Shogun he kept a firm gaze on the man before he caught his eyes.

"Yes well," Hojo began with a sigh, "Cloud however is not gone exactly...simply missing. He will turn up soon."

"Reno will be able to give us a good lead if not anything else," Elena spoke up with a smirk.

Reno? Sephiroth was more than aware of the red heads role for the Shogunate, but he hadn't heard anything about him when it came to Cloud's disappearance.

"Reno?" Sephiroth voiced while looking at the blond woman.

"Yes," she said simply before looking back towards her clipboard and scribbling down some notes.

"Ah yes, if anyone can give us anymore details it would be him," Hojo explained.

"What does he have to do with this?" Sephiroth asked.

"We've enlisted his help as well," Hojo began, "it seemed necessary given the circumstances."

"I've heard nothing of it," Sephiroth replied while narrowing his eyes at the other.

"I do apologize," Hojo said, "there has just been so much going on that I must've failed to mention it."

"Failed you did," Sephiroth spoke evenly, keeping his focus on the Shogun.

Giving a brief laugh and a smile Hojo continued on. "Don't concern yourself with that matter however, it's under control."

"In any case, you should be getting ready for your meeting with the Magistrate You're Excellency," Elena explained.

"Yes that's right," Hojo replied with a nod before standing up from the table as Saito followed suit. "We'll all meet again soon to get an update on this matter."

"Yes You're Excellency, thank you," Saito said with a bow before turning towards the General. "And thank you very much as well."

"Of course," Sephiroth replied before heading towards the door. He stopped briefly to give a brief bow to the Shogun and then he had exited the room and was making his way through the castle. He had nothing left to say to any of those people in that room, and he had been counting the seconds until he could leave the whole time. He quickly made his way through the castle and into town where he entered the Kisiragi teahouse. There wasn't very many patrons but the ones that were there quickly stood to their feet and bowed towards the General. He gave them nods of acknowledgment before finding a table towards the back of the room that was separate from the rest.

"Welcome sir!" Came the greeting of a young girl, she approached the table with a pot of tea before halting in her tracks briefly. Shaking of her shock she moved towards the table and set the teapot down on it. "Oh you...would't happen to be...the General Sephiroth would you?"

Glancing up at the somewhat flustered girl the man nodded before she broke out into a grin.

"Oh my," she started while pouring him a cup of tea. "All of Edo has been in a frenzy since word of you arriving back spread. Although I never would've thought you would be right here in my families teahouse!"

"Hi Yuffie," a voice spoke from behind the girl. Turning around she smiled at her friend before stepping aside to allow him to sit at the table with the General.

"You couldn't have told me that you were meeting the General here?" Yuffie asked Zack while setting down a cup for him and filling it with tea. "I would've brought out the best tea you know, and our finest dishes."

"This is more than alright, thank you," Sephiroth spoke while flicking green eyes back to gray.

"Oh well...if you're sure!" She replied with a nervous laugh. "Anyways, please take your time deciding what you'd like to eat and just shout if you need anything." And with that she scurried off to the back.

Scratching the back of his head Zack gave the other a smile. "Sorry about that," he said with a small laugh.

"It's perfectly alright," Sephiroth dismissed while taking a sip of his tea. "Angeal's left already?"

"Yeah," Zack replied with a nod. "He figures he'll be away for about three days at the most."

"I see, and he had no problem with you not going?" Sephiroth questioned.

"No," Zack answered, "Kunsel was more than willing to go in my place so it was fine."

An assignment had come up and while Zack was supposed to go along with Angeal he just couldn't bring himself to leave. Angeal understood and since it was something relatively simple he didn't argue with his pupil and had no issues with Kunsel filling in for him.

"Very well," Sephiroth continued, "as for my meeting with the others today everything seems to be just as it was. They don't suspect anything, nor do they have the first clue as to Cloud's whereabouts. Although they have discussed something with Reno, but his role in this I do not know."

"Reno isn't anything to be worried about," Zack quickly added.

Raising an eyebrow Sephiroth lowered his cup and waited for Zack to elaborate.

"I sort of already found out Reno's role in this a few days ago. Apparently the Shogun asked him to follow me thinking that I would lead him to Cloud or at least discover some information that I may have."

"Hmm," the General began in thought but Zack was continuing on.

"It's fine though, Reno told me everything," Zack explained. "He's my friend...we can trust him."

"You're certain?" Sephiroth asked while reaching out for the pot of tea and pouring himself another cup.

Pausing for only a second Zack nodded once more. "I am."

"Very well then," Sephiroth replied. "Everything should be fine then. And since Angeal has left I told him I would check on Cloud periodically."

"About that," Zack started while leaning against the table. "I think I would like to go back to Angeal's."

"He said that you should stay away from there," Sephiroth explained casually.

"Yes," Zack admitted, "but that was because he thought I was being followed. And while he was right about that, I mean with that Reno's not following me anymore then there isn't any reason why I shouldn't go there."

Sephiroth remained silent for a moment as he took in Zack's words. He wasn't really in the position to tell Zack that it was a good or bad idea to go to Angeal's quarters. He would just have to trust Zack's judgment on the situation. After all he figured that he knew the red head pretty well. And while Sephiroth may have had his reservations if he were in Zack's place, he couldn't say to the younger Samurai that he was wrong. But friend or not...Sephiroth just wasn't sure how much one could really trust the word of a spy.

"I see no reason why you shouldn't then. After all I'm sure Cloud would appreciate your presence there rather than mine," Sephiroth explained. "If you trust this Reno then nothing should be of concern at this moment."

A smile appeared on Zack's face and he thanked the General before finally taking a drink of tea.

"I would like to ask you however," Sephiroth began while casting a quick glance at the other patrons who were all caught up in small talk of their own and enjoying their meals. "What do you plan to do about this matter exactly? It has been ongoing for some time now."

"I know," Zack replied with a sigh while dropping his gaze towards the table. "It's just that I...I need to know that my next move is flawless. I can't put Cloud in anymore danger."

"Understandable," Sephiroth said gently. "Although as a Samurai you do know that waiting too long to make a strike could be just as deadly."

Zack visibly winced at those words. Sephiroth was right, waiting for too long and hesitating could be even worse. But a careless move wasn't any better. No, it had to be thought out and executed just right if it was going to work. Whatever that move may be.

"I do know what I want to do though," Zack confessed while lowering his voice.

"Is that right?" Sephiroth asked while narrowing his eyes slightly.

"Yes," Zack replied without a bit of hesitance, "I want to leave Edo."

"Leave?" Sephiroth repeated in slight shock.

"A new start," Zack continued, "there's too much...too much going on now that I don't see how things could get better if Cloud remained here. I can't even say he's safe with his family, not when Saito...I can't keep him safe here, I know that."

Can't keep him safe here...

Perhaps Zack was right. The reason why Genesis was so threatened was because he resided in the castle's walls where the problem lied. No peace could ever come from there, and while Genesis family wasn't aware of the Shogun's actions it didn't make him safe at home really either. The only place he would've been safe was if he had been away from the castle. If Sephiroth had known...if he had taken Genesis away from the dreaded place, surely he still would've been with him in this life by his side.

"You would give up everything you have established here for him?" Sephiroth questioned while dropping jade eyes towards his tea cup.

"In a second," Zack quickly replied causing Sephiroth to turn his gaze back towards him. "I'm very grateful for what I've accomplished, and while I would love to achieve more...none of that would mean anything if I didn't have Cloud."

That's right. None of this means anything, because I don't have...

"I wanted to be Samurai ever since I was a kid," Zack continued. "But..." pausing briefly he let out a sigh before smiling a bit. "Not to be dramatic or anything but Cloud's my life. Always has been."

"It's not dramatic," Sephiroth said simply. "It's honest and I admire your loyalty to him."

"So you," Zack began with a tilt of his head, "don't think it's crazy? My idea to leave Edo with him?"

"I'll admit it will be dangerous," Sephiroth said matter of factly. "After all he is the son of a council member. However I respect that idea immensely."

"Angeal thinks...he's against it," Zack said with a frown.

"I imagine he would be," Sephiroth replied. "As I said, it is a dangerous move. And you being Angeal's pupil he does care about you, I know that he doesn't want any harm to come to you."

"I know," Zack started while scuffing a hand a through his hair. "And I don't want to upset him or cause him any stress but I..."

"You have to do what you think is best Zackary," Sephiroth cut in. "If you believe it's what you should do and Cloud is on board, despite what others may think you shouldn't let that hold you back."

'By no means should you let it hold you back. If it means that the two of you can be happy together with that life, you shouldn't hesitate. Otherwise you may look back someday and be full of regret.'

Reclining against the pillow Cloud turned the page in the book he was reading while Mizu stretched out against him with a wide yawn. Reaching down Cloud petted him behind his ears as the cat began to purr. The little, usually shy cat who would hide out in Angeal's room had taken a great liking to Cloud. He would always stay near by him and loved to cuddle up beside him when he slept. Cloud loved it though, it reminded him of Tama and he greatly missed her.

Sighing he set the book down beside him and rubbed at his eyes a bit tiredly. It was already evening at this point and he probably should've gotten up to make something to eat but he was feeling rather lazy. Not to mention the silence in Angeal's spacious quarters made it all the more calming. And yet also lonely. True he was used to the quietness to an extent, but since he had been staying at Angeal's there was usually always someone else there, even if it was later in the evening. If not Angeal then Sephiroth, although Sephiroth tended to be pretty quiet for the most part. But his presence was comforting to Cloud, he felt safe when he was there.

And now that Angeal was away on assignment Cloud had to admit that he felt a little odd with knowing that he would be alone entirely for the next few days. Angeal had told him that Sephiroth would probably be by to check on him, but Cloud didn't know when exactly that may be. Though he appreciated it none the less. He was sure that both he and Angeal were aware that he was a bit upset with Zack being away from him, but he had to trust them when they said it was for the best right now.

The sound of the front door being slid open caused Cloud to sit up right away. He wasn't expecting the General so late in the evening, but maybe he figured he'd drop by after all of his duties were completed for the day.

"Cloud?" A voice asked into the quietness of the quarters.

Blinking Cloud looked over to the entryway. That wasn't Sephiroth's low, even voice. No, that voice belonged to...

"Zack," Cloud spoke just as the Samurai stepped into the room and gave the blond his best smile.

"Hey," Zack started while making his way over towards the other.

"What are you doing here?" Cloud asked in surprise as Zack took a seat beside him. "I thought you couldn't see me," he finished while throwing his arms around the others neck.

"Yeah," Zack replied softly while pulling the boy close and placing a kiss on top of his head, "but that's all been worked out now."

"I was worrying about you," Cloud admitted against Zack's neck. "Angeal didn't really tell me too much about what was going on."

"I'm sorry," Zack spoke. He hated putting Cloud through this. It was bad enough with the situation they were in, but he hated to add to Cloud's stress and worry when it came to himself. "We just had to take precaution."

"About what?" Cloud asked while pulling away so that he could look into Zack's eyes. "Are some kind of trouble?"

"No," Zack quickly replied while running his fingers through blond hair. "No nothing like that. It's just Angeal realized that someone may have been following me because of an order from the Shogun. We just didn't want to lead them to you."

"Following you?" Cloud continued as his eyes widened briefly.

"It's fine," Zack confirmed while leaning in to place a kiss against the others lips. "Please don't worry about it."

Don't worry about it? How could he not?

"Zack," Cloud started but the Samurai quickly changed the topic. The last thing he wanted to do was to tell Cloud that it was Reno of all people who had been following him. That sort of information wasn't something he needed to know.

"How have things been these past few days?" Zack asked.

Cloud could tell that Zack clearly wanted to change the topic and he decided not to press it. He was just happy that Zack was able to come back to him now at least.

"Fine I guess," Cloud said with a sigh. "A bit dreary."

"Yeah," Zack started while running his hand through blond spikes, "I guess it's not too exciting here. But in time...this will all get sorted out."

In time? Was that true, did it really matter? Time wasn't going to change anything, his situation would still be the same. Was he just prolonging the inevitable? Just how long could he hide out in this place and avoid things? If anything he was probably just making it worse...

"It's already been weeks," Cloud mumbled.

"Hey," Zack started with a frown, "weeks or months it doesn't matter. As long as it takes to make sure you're safe."

"But I'm not really I?" Cloud asked while turning blue eyes back towards the other, "I'm hiding here but I'm I can't live in seclusion forever."

There was a moment of silence that passed between them before Zack took Cloud's hands into his. He immediately thought back to his conversation with Sephiroth earlier. He couldn't keep waiting to strike, he had to make a move "Then we'll do what I said."

Staring back into blue eyes Cloud had a bit of a confused expression on his face. But after a few moments Zack's gaze finally conveyed it's meaning.

"Zack," Cloud began while pulling his hands away from the other and standing up to move away. "Stop it I said no already."

"Only because you're thinking the worst," Zack continued while following after Cloud and taking him by his shoulders before turning him around gently to face him. "I know what Angeal said, if they found us it would spell disaster. But Cloud do you realize what a big if that is? The places we could go is endless, if we get out of Edo that's it. They wouldn't even have any leads as to where we were, they wouldn't even know where to start."

"And if they did-"

"They won't," Zack interrupted, "You just have to trust me."

Glancing away Cloud started to shake his head. Leaving the castle and leaving Edo had been Zack's number one idea since Cloud had went to Angeal's. He thought the best thing to do was to cut all ties with the Shogunate. After Angeal had spoken about the flaws in that plan Zack seemed to be considering it for a moment, but in the end he still thought it was the best plan. He didn't seem to think twice about what he would be leaving behind. Family, friends, his position. It honestly shocked Cloud that Zack would so easily cast aside being Samurai...all for his sake. But Cloud just couldn't take the chance of any harm coming to Zack because of him, if anything happened to him Cloud would never forgive himself, even if the chances were low it was still too great of a risk in his opinion.

"I can't risk that," Cloud spoke aloud, "I just can't Zack, you can't...ask me to do that."

"I'm not asking you to take a risk," Zack replied without missing a beat, "I'm asking trust me."

"Zack," Cloud started while lifting his gaze upwards.

"Think about it for a while," Zack spoke quietly while wrapping an arm around the others waist, "really think about it."

"I can't...I mean..." still wanting to protest the matter in some way Cloud placed his hands against the others chest. "Say if we did...when exactly would we leave?"

"The moment you agree to it I'll set it all up," Zack explained seriously.

"How? And I can't just walk out of here after being "missing" all of this time," Cloud explained.

"Sneaking you out of here won't be a problem," Zack replied with a raise of his eyebrow. "I'll pack what we can and anything else we'll get later. I have enough saved up for us to get by for awhile with no problem, and finding work won't be an issue."

Looking into Zack's eyes Cloud searched them for any hint of reservation or doubt but he couldn't find any. Zack seemed more than secure with the words he was speaking.

"I can keep you safe out there on our own," Zack continued. "I'll provide for the both of us."

"It's not only that," Cloud said with a shake of his head, "what about our families? Once word got out that we ran away together both of our families would-"

"Don't," Zack replied while cupping the boys face in his hand, "you're just thinking it over, don't say anything else about it right now. Okay?"

Holding Zack's gaze Cloud gave a brief nod before Zack leaned in and pressed a soft kiss against his lips.

Letting out a soft sigh after the kiss was broke Cloud wrapped his arms around the other, pressing the side of his face against the Samurai's strong chest.

"I missed you," Cloud spoke softly. Even if it had only been a matter of days, with his constant worrying it felt like much longer.

"I missed you too," Zack replied. "And so you're sure everything's been okay?"

"Yes...well sort of," Cloud started, "General Sephiroth came over a few days ago...actually I ran into him in the hall when I was chasing Mizu after he snuck out."

"What?" Zack asked while pulling away and looking at Cloud with wide eyes, "you left out of here?"

"I know," Cloud began while slipping away from Zack and taking a seat, "I know it was a stupid thing to do the General already told me that. I just didn't want to lose Angeal's cat."

"Cloud," Zack spoke while running his hands through his hair before taking a seat beside the smaller one. "You can't do that...ever again. Do you know how high the security is now since you've been reported missing?"

"I know," Cloud said again while shutting his eyes momentarily, "I wasn't thinking it through that much least I wasn't seen. Well aside from the General but...I guess it's all okay."

"Don't worry Angeal told him not to say anything," Zack confirmed with a nod.

"Yes but he told him...everything," Cloud said gently while dropping his eyes to the ground.


"I know," Zack started as he processed that information."But he had a reason to."

"Zack I don't want this getting out anymore than it has to," Cloud admitted while looking back to Zack with sad eyes.

"And it's not," Zack started comfortingly while pulling Cloud into his arms. "It stops at the General I know it. I'll make sure of it. And besides Angeal wouldn't go spreading things around you know that."

"I know," Cloud replied softly.

Leaning in the Samurai placed a kiss between golden eyebrows before tilting the others chin up and kissing him gently. They parted after a few seconds but remained just inches away from each other, and then Zack was leaning in once more. Cloud felt his heartbeat speed up and he didn't really know why for a moment. After all it wasn't as if a kiss between them was anything new, but then he realized that it had been awhile since they had shared any real lingering kisses. They had been brief or even chaste. Not that it was necessarily planned not to have anything more than that, but with everything that had happened lately it was as if there just wasn't any room for it.

When he felt Zack's tongue run along the seam of his lips he slowly opened his mouth and nearly flinched when their tongues met.

Flinch...but why? True it had been a while since they had kissed this way, but was such a reaction warranted? He pushed it from his thoughts as he slid his hands across the Samurai's chest before carefully hooking his arms around his neck. He felt one of Zack's arms encircle his waist while his other hand gently moved though his hair. They stayed locked in their passionate kiss and Cloud started to feel lightheaded. Whenever they kissed this way it had that effect on him, slow and gentle. Not rushed and forceful like...

His eyes snapped open and he broke the kiss before pulling himself closer to Zack so that his face was hidden against his shoulder.

'Rushed and forceful like...why would that pop into my head now?'

Zack changed the direction of his kiss when Cloud pulled him closer, and instead began to press kisses against his neck. Cloud felt a shiver run through his body and he clutched at Zack's back as he felt the others hands move down to rest at his waist. The shiver had left a prickly feeling on his skin and he realized that his heart hadn't stopped racing. And while these things might've been what he normally felt when he was with Zack...there was something else that seemed off and he couldn't quite place his finger on it.

"Zack," he started softly. What he wanted to say after that he wasn't sure...but he just...

He found himself against the floor a second later, Zack still trailing gentle kisses across his neck and collar bone before ending back at his lips. Cloud's eyes fell close once more and he wound his fingers in dark raven hair. Whatever strange feeling he was having he needed to shake it off, it was just his mind being overly active. This was...okay. This was right, nothing was happening that should make him feel uneasy or odd in anyway. This was...Zack.

It wasn't until Zack's hand moved to his obi that some sense of dread washed over him. He remembered struggling and screaming and his eyes quickly snapped open. And for a moment...just for a moment he didn't see Angeal's quarters, but instead a large dark room. And he wasn't staring into blue eyes, but instead...

Gasping he quickly pushed at Zack's chest and his eyes widened.

"Cloud?" Zack asked curiously while pulling back and looking down to the blond. His face had completely paled and he had a distant look in his eyes. He wasn't even looking at Zack, but more through him.

"Cloud," Zack continued while taking Cloud's face into his hands. "Look at me, what's wrong?"

Blinking rapidly as if waking up from a dream Cloud looked around the room. That's right...he was at Angeal's. He was with Zack, he was...fine. Or...was he?

"I'm sorry," he finally spoke while sitting up and pulling away from Zack's grasp.

"Don't apologize," Zack quickly replied, "are you okay?"

"I'm...fine," Cloud replied with a bit of a waver in his voice. "I just..." he trailed off while moving to stand up to his feet.

Zack felt his stomach drop and he instantly cursed himself. Did he do something wrong? Surely he did, Cloud was fine just moments before and now he was retracting. Did he...hurt him somehow?

"Cloud I'm sorry," he quickly blurted while reaching out for Cloud's hand and catching his fingers.

"Please don't touch me," Cloud snapped while snatching his hand away from Zack's. He caught the worried and hurt look on the others face and he shook his head. "I just meant that..."

What did he mean? That he couldn't allow Zack's touch because it in someway reminded him of...the Shogun?, never that. But then why did he...

His mind was a mess, he didn't understand what he was feeling really but he just knew that something was wrong. Was he really so messed up? He opened his mouth to say something more but then he realized he didn't have any words to express his thoughts. Without hesitating another second he made his way down the hall and into the den.

Zack felt a strong urge to go after him but he suppressed it. Clearly he had over stepped some boundary. He didn't mean to do anything to make Cloud feel uncomfortable, he hadn't even really meant to...

Clenching his hand into a fist he hit the ground before raking his hands through his hair. How could he have been so foolish? Of course Cloud would be uncomfortable in a situation like that, after what he had been through. It was something that Zack didn't like to think about, in fact he tried to push it far from his mind ever since he had learned about what the Shogun had done. But fact remained that it couldn't go ignored, and while he hated to think of it...he could only imagine how Cloud felt.

He wanted to take away Cloud's pain, but he had no clue on how to do that. And he often wondered if it would in fact ever truly go away. He hoped with everything in him that it would, but he couldn't be sure. But the one thing he did know was that he never wanted to contribute to it...and he was begining to wonder if he had. He didn't mean to scare Cloud. Letting out a sigh he went against his first decision to give Cloud a little room. He had to make sure that he was alright. So standing up to his feet he made his way down the hall and stopped in front of the sliding door that led to the den.

Lifting his hand to open the door he stopped midway. "Cloud?" He asked carefully, "can I come in?"

He heard some shuffling on the other side of the door but he didn't receive a response. That sinking feeling in his stomach returned and he slowly opened the door. He saw Cloud looking out the window with his back facing him.

"Don't," came Cloud's small voice. Zack didn't need to see his face to tell that he was crying, he could always tell just from the sound of his voice.

"Cloud," Zack started while slowly approaching the window. He stopped next to the blond but gave a bit of distance between them. "Please...I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you."

Wiping at his eyes Cloud shook his head. "You didn't hurt me," he replied.

Zack wanted to reach out and wipe the tears away from Cloud's eyes, tears that he had caused no less. But he knew that he shouldn't. "In some way I did," he explained, "and I'm...sorry. That's the last thing I wanted to do, but I didn't think."

Turning blue eyes toward the Samurai Cloud's heart broke a little. He hated seeing Zack look so sad, thinking that he had done something to cause him pain. Zack wasn't to blame, he hadn't done anything. No, the truth was that it was himself. He was so messed up that he couldn't even differentiate between things anymore. Was he honestly so damaged? Zack didn't deserve someone so broken.

"Please don't," Cloud said while moving away from the window and over to the cabinet. "Don't apologize anymore."

Zack watched the smaller one as he rifled through the cabinet before carefully speaking. "I have to apologize," Zack said softly, "otherwise I don't know how to fix this."

"You don't have to fix anything Zack!" Cloud shouted while retrieving a bottle of sake from the cabinet. "You didn't do anything! The only thing that needs to be me."

Zack's eyes widened and he made his way over to the cabinet. "What are you talking about?"

Cloud was silent for a moment but the tears continued to fall from his eyes. "I I'm...I don't know."

"You don't need to be fixed Cloud," Zack said sternly and yet gently.

"Yes I do," Cloud continued. "As much as I want to believe that I don't I know that I do...I'm not who I was."

"Cloud that's-"

"You don't see it maybe but it's true," Cloud began while looking directly into blue eyes. "I've been broken ever since that could never understand."

Never understand...

Those words would forever stay with him. Cloud was right, he would never understand. Not in the way that Cloud did. But he did feel what Cloud did in someway. He may have not been broken in the sense that Cloud felt he was, but the fact that Cloud was hurt also tore at Zack.

"I can't understand, and I won't pretend that I do," Zack started softly while reaching out and taking the bottle of sake away from Cloud who simply let it go without protest. "But you're not-"

"I am!" Cloud shouted, "don't you see that? And no matter how hard I try or what I do it'll probably always be like that! I can't even kiss you without replaying what happened! That's can I...I'm too messed up to deserve better than-"

"Stop it," Zack quickly cut in while pulling Cloud into his arms. "Don't finish that sentence."

Immediately placing his arms around the Samurai Cloud buried his face in his chest.

"Don't say anymore," Zack continued gently as he tightened his arms around the blond. He wasn't about to let Cloud say anything more damaging about himself. No, he wouldn't allow him to. He wasn't going to let the Shogun's actions break and shatter the one he loved most.

"I love you more than anything Cloud," Zack started softly, "and I always will no matter what. You do understand that don't you?"

A small whimper escaped from Cloud and he hid his face more against the Samurai.

"You're perfect to me," Zack continued while placing a soft kiss in blond spikes. "No matter what you may think, I love you more and more each day and nothing will change that. And if you say that you're broken, I'll be right here to put you back together."

Cloud cried harder at those words and he clenched Zack's back with his fingers.

"I'll never leave your side," Zack spoke with a shake of his head. "I only want you...I need you."

"Zack," Cloud cried while pulling away only to wrap his arms tightly around the Samurai's neck. "I need you too."

"I'm right here," Zack replied gently. "I always will be."

Nodding Cloud held on tighter before whispering "I love you" in Zack's ear. The words that he had spoken came from his heart, and he would say them as much as he needed to to get across to Cloud that he was loved. That he wasn't worthless, and most of all that he would always be the most important person in Zack's life. No matter what the Shogun had done, it would never break their love.

"Okay," Cloud said quietly.

"Hmm?" Zack questioned softly while pressing a kiss to Cloud's temple.

"Okay," Cloud repeated while pulling away slightly so that he could look into Zack's eyes. "Let's do it then...let's leave this all behind us."

Wiping away the others tears Zack furrowed his brows as he focused on Cloud's words. Leave it all behind? So then...did he mean?

Searching his eyes Zack spoke up. "Are you sure?"

Nodding a few more tears spilled from Cloud's eyes. "I can't do this anymore," he confessed softly. "And everything here reminds me of...a past that I don't want to be my future. You're my future, that's all I need."

He wanted to be happy again. He wanted to live life without a sense of fear and paranoia. He didn't want to have to be on edge with wondering what would happen if he were to be found at Angeal's. And more than that he didn't want to accept a fate that he was sure to fall into if he were to be sent back home. That was no way to live, and he couldn't accept it so easily. And while he did have his doubts about leaving Edo, as long as he was with Zack...he would take his chances.

"Then we'll leave," Zack replied while catching the others tears before Cloud was leaning back against him again and being wrapped securely in his arms.

Take me far away from here...and finally wake me up from this nightmare.

Authors note: Hey everyone! So alas here is chapter 19! I'm sorry if it's a bit shorter than usual but it was going to be massively long if I didn't cut it here. As the next chapter has much happening! Poor Cloud, even now the thoughts of the Shogun still plague him. But at least he agreed to leave Edo! That's the answer isn't it? Zack whisking Cloud away to safety from the Shogun! Will Angeal be happy about this? And is Sephiroth's thoughts on Reno correct, can you really trust the word of someone like him? Hmm, guess we will see! Also, I am going to try to stick to a schedule of updating, and that will be updates on the 10th of the month or the 20th. I really wanted to do every two weeks but I'm not sure if that's exactly doable with my schedule, but I am going to try! Hopefully with a date people will know what to expect. Well enough rambling from me, until next time! Thanks so much for reading and your guys awesome reviews!

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