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.




 


Terms to know for the chapter:


Ogata Korin -Japanese Artist during the Edo Period (1658-1716)


Sake- Japanese alcoholic beverage made from rice.

 


xxx



 


“Cloud! Are you still asleep?”


A groan was the reply to that question as the blond slid down further under the covers. He was trying to shield his face from the blinding sunlight that had just spilled into his room from his mother pulling open the curtains.


“Would you get up,” Natsumi began while pushing open the window also and taking a peek outside it to the gardens below. “It’s a nice day out, you should go somewhere.”


“Mom,” Cloud growled in annoyance. He just wanted to sleep, who cared what time it was. But his mom was chatting away and making herself welcome in his room when he didn’t remember inviting her in at all.


“Don’t mom me,” she shot back while turning around and glaring at her son who was still tangled up in the covers. “I don’t get you. You’ve been out of classes for the past few days since your tutor’s been sick and all you’ve been doing is sleeping. You always say how you wish you had some free time and now that you do this is what you do with it?”


Not answering Cloud shifted in bed, his back facing his mom. She was right, he had just been in his room the past few days. But he didn’t really want to go out now. Zack wasn’t there. He had been sent out to Kyoto on some assignment and had already been gone for a week, and Cloud didn’t know when exactly he would be back. Even though Zack said it wouldn’t be long he knew he just said that so as not to worry him. But truth was not even the Samurai knew. And that’s what Cloud hated about when Zack got sent away somewhere. If it were things nearby, that he didn’t mind, but when they required travel that’s what Cloud didn’t like.


Opening his eyes when he heard a bit of rustling he turned back around to face his mom. She had just pulled the tarp off of his canvas that was leaning against the side of his wall and was now inspecting it.


“Mom,” Cloud started again while sitting up a bit annoyed. He figured he may as well get up if his mom insisted on staying in there.


“It’s blank,” she stated while looking back over to him with a questioning look.


“Yeah, I haven’t started it,” he replied while sliding out of bed.


“Well why is it covered?” She asked.


Making his way over to the canvas he didn’t say anything until he had covered it again with the tarp. “Because it’s taunting me.”


His mother was silent for a moment before she let out a laugh, “well now that you have some time why don’t you start it? You’ve been talking about trying a painting, what’s stopping you now?” She asked while placing a kiss on his cheek. She didn’t wait for an answer before she began to make her way out of the room. “You missed breakfast but I’ll make you something to eat,” she finished while exiting the room.


Sighing he rubbed at his eyes tiredly for a moment before looking back to the covered canvas.


‘What’s stopping you now?’


His mom made it sound so easy. Even if…well maybe it was. But he just couldn’t figure out what exactly he wanted to paint. Unlike his sketches he wanted to do something different, something unique for his first real painting. Maybe he was being too picky but he just didn’t want to sully the canvas with some crappy image. But then again it wasn’t unlike him to put so much thought into his art. It may just be a “painting” to others, but to him it meant more.


“I’ll get around to it,” he mumbled before walking out of his room.


Once he got washed up and his mom made him eat something he decided that he should get out for at least a little bit. His dad was doing some work and wasn’t there so he figured he could do what he wanted without worrying about him getting on his case.


His mom seemed pleased that he was finally getting some fresh air and she shot him a big smile before he left out. Unlike his father his mom didn’t like him to be cooped up inside. It was sort of strange really how they differed so much in those aspects.


“Cloud!” A voice called out to him pretty much right after he had exited out of his quarters.


Turning he caught sight of the cheery brunette walking over towards him with a few bags in hand.


“Hey,” he replied once the girl got closer to him.


“Where are you headed?” Aerith asked, but once she caught sight of his sketchbook she gave a nod, “to the garden?”


“For a while I guess, just wanted to get out,” he answered while taking one of the bags off of her hands when he saw her struggling with them.


“Thanks, I went into town with my mom earlier and she got all this stuff,” she explained with a smile, “let’s go take them back to my place and then I can come with you!”


Cloud agreed and then they were off to Aerith’s. She chatted away happily telling him all about her day so far and how she was enjoying the time off from lessons. Cloud didn’t really say much of anything the whole way over to her place, just nodded in agreement for the most part or smiled. But it was always this way with Aerith, she was very talkative. Once they had set down the bags at her place they made their way back through the castle and out to their usual garden. In an instant Aerith ran over to the flowerbed to check up on her new flowers. And like always she gave a smile when she saw that they were still doing well.


Pulling out his sketchbook the blond flipped through a few pages before landing on the one he wanted. He took a glance at it and then around at the area. It seemed as if he was almost done, just a few more touches here and there. He wasn’t sure how long exactly he had been working on this one but it was always nice to see something come to completion. Moving further into the garden he made his way over to the little bridge that spread over the small pond in the center. Glancing down into the clear water he looked at the fish that swam through it and the grayish and blue rocks that lined the bottom. Looking back to his sketch he furrowed his eyebrows in thought, he didn’t really see any way to incorporate those things into the drawing.


“I saw Yuffie when I was in town today,” Aerith’s voice broke in as she made her way over to the bridge, tossing a pebble into the pond below them.


“Oh how is she? I haven’t seen her in a while,” Cloud explained while leaning on the rail of the bridge.


“Yeah she said the same. Last time she saw you was when you and Zack went to eat at the restaurant. She says hi though,” Aerith continued while moving beside him and leaning against the railing also, peering down into the pond at the small gold fish. “I guess I’ll have to relay that message to Zack later though. I wonder how long he’ll be gone. Did he tell you?”


And here we go with asking about Zack again,’ Cloud couldn’t help but to think to himself, a bit annoyed.


“Well, he said it shouldn’t be long but you know…there’s no real way of ever knowing,” Cloud explained softly. More to himself than to her but she nodded anyways before letting out a sigh.


“Well I hope it’s not for long,” she replied with a smile.


“Why?” Cloud quickly asked while shooting a look her way. The question just came out like a reflex really. Before he had a chance to even think he had blurted it out.


Aerith gave a shrug while placing her chin in the palm of her hand as she rested her elbow on the railing. “Oh, just cause,” was all she answered with before she went back to watching the fish below them.


Just cause? What the hell did that mean? Cloud wasn’t satisfied with that response, but at the same time he didn’t really want to question it further…and yet a part of him just had to know.


Letting out a small, forced laugh Cloud kept his eyes on the water. “Maybe it’s just me but it seems like you’ve been talking about Zack a lot lately.


“What?” Aerith questioned while turning to look at the blond, “what’s that mean?” She asked with a giggle.


Why don’t you tell me? However he just shrugged and kept his gaze downwards.


“Well,” she started while looking back to the water, “I don’t know I just..” trailing off for a moment she gave a smile before fiddling with the end of her hair in that “oh so girly way.” And a pink hue began to tint her cheeks. “I guess maybe…” she continued with a sigh.


Cloud’s eyes widened slightly and he felt his stomach drop. Just from the way she was acting he could clearly tell what her true feelings were, and he didn’t have to actually hear the words from her lips to confirm it.


“Cloud!” Aerith exclaimed, seeming to snap out of her thoughts briefly as she pointed down into the pond, “your book!”


Blinking briefly the blond snapped his gaze back to the water and saw his sketch book floating above the surface. He must’ve let it slip from his hands when he was listening to Aerith!


“Shit,” he cursed to himself while running off of the small bridge with Aerith right behind him.


Kneeling on the side of the pond Aerith tried to reach out to the already sinking book. “Aah it’s too far away!”


Without a second thought Cloud made his way into the pond. Once he had gotten a few steps in and the water hit his waist he reached down and grabbed the book. Pulling it out it felt a lot heavier with the weight of the water dripping from it, and already he felt some of the fiber of the pages rubbing off.


Stepping out of the pond and beside Aerith he opened the book to inspect the damage. And already, in just that short amount of time, mostly all of the pages had been soaked through.


“Oh no,” Aerith spoke quietly as she glanced at the soggy sketches.


That was great. Just great. Practically all of his work that he had done was in there, and now it was ruined! In just a minute like that it was all gone. Things he had been working on for so long!


“Maybe you can dry them out somehow,” Aerith suggested softly when she noticed the angry expression across his face.


“That’s not going to work! Everything would be wrinkled and faded even if they did dry,” Cloud explained with a sigh before plopping down on the ground, not paying attention to his soaked kimono.


“I’m sorry Cloud,” Aerith replied while taking a seat beside him.


Damn it! It was all her fault! If she hadn’t been ready to confess her feelings about Zack he wouldn’t have gotten so worked up. And that alone was worse than his ruined sketchbook. Aerith did like Zack. He wasn’t being paranoid after all! He knew something was up. Call it a sixth sense or something but he knew.


A gentle hand squeezed his shoulder and he glanced beside him to see Aerith giving him a sweet smile. He really had no right to be mad at her…he knew that. It wasn’t her fault about the book…and her feelings for Zack. After all, she didn’t know that she had fallen for Cloud’s boyfriend. So how could he hold it against her? And honestly, Cloud was aware that she wasn’t the first one to develop a crush on Zack. But all the other times those were just…”other” girls. It was easier to avoid them, but Aerith, she was their friend. It complicated things.


They remained there for a little longer before Cloud suggested they head back. For one he was getting a bit cold sitting there in his now wet kimono, and honestly, he just wasn’t in that good of a mood anymore. But Aerith seemed to understand and shortly after they headed back into the castle. Aerith went off down the way to her quarters while Cloud headed back to his. He avoided everyone’s gaze, he didn’t feel like saying hi to anyone but he didn’t want to be rude and make eye contact with them just to ignore them. So he just kept hold onto his ruined sketchbook and made his way throughout the place. However he must’ve been too caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t even realize that there was someone right in front of him until he walked straight into them.


“Hey! Watch where you’re going,” the woman snapped before Cloud looked up at her.


“Oh I’m sorry,” Cloud apologized with a bow. It was that blond lady again. He hadn’t seen her since the last time he ran into the Shogun…


“Why are you wet?” The woman asked while scrunching her face a bit.


“Uh,” Cloud began while glancing down at himself and his still partially dripping sketchbook.


“Elena,” a man’s voice broke in and Cloud turned slightly to see the Shogun approaching. “That is Chamberlain Saito’s son remember? His name is Cloud.”


“Ah,” the woman apparently named Elena replied, “that’s right.”


“Your Excellency,” Cloud spoke up with a bow once the Shogun had gotten closer.


“It’s nice to see you again Cloud. Is everything okay?” The man asked while taking in the view of the other.


“Oh yes,” Cloud replied with a nod, “excuse this. I sort of had to…fish something out of the pond earlier.”


“Oh?” Hojo asked with a bit of a frown, “And what was that?”


“Just my sketchbook,” Cloud replied while glancing down to the item in his hands. “I was careless.”


Now that the others focus was turned to the book he could clearly see that it was ruined.


“I’m sorry. I know that was a prized possession of yours,” the Shogun spoke while lifting his gaze to meet blue.


Glancing away quickly at nothing in particular Cloud nodded. He found it a little difficult to meet the other’s gaze. He hadn’t seen the Shogun since Zack had told him what he did about him. And he honestly wasn’t sure how to act around him. He was the Shogun though so he still had to be respectful but he also didn’t want to give him the wrong impression either.


“We should be going sir the Magistrate is waiting,” Elena spoke up.


“Right,” Hojo replied while adjusting his glasses, keeping his gaze fixed on the boy. “I suppose you should get going also Cloud, you don’t want to catch a cold in those wet clothes.”


“Yes,” Cloud answered.


“I hope to see you at the dinner tonight,” the Shogun said while turning to leave off with Elena.


Dinner? Tonight?


“Uh,” Cloud started quietly before speaking up, “Your Excellency, I didn’t realize there was a dinner this evening.”


Giving the other a smile the man nodded. “Oh but there is. I hope you make it,” he replied before turning back and continuing down the hall. Elena paused briefly and gave Cloud a look before catching back up to the Shogun.




xxx



 


“Tama!” Cloud called out looking around for his orange and white cat. He heard the sound of the bell jingling on her collar and looked up to see the cat running over towards him. Setting down her small food dish he scratched her behind her ears as she happily started to munch on the food. Moving back towards the kitchen he poured himself a glass of water. Even though he was really hungry and wanted to eat. But he had to wait to go to the dinner, and his parents weren’t back yet…from wherever they were. He figured his dad was still finishing up with some work, but he wasn’t sure where his mom had gone off too. She was gone once he got back earlier. But he didn’t pay it much thought as his number one concern when he came home was too change out of his wet clothes. He had put his ruined sketchbook in an empty box and placed it inside of his closet. Even though it was ruined he couldn’t bring himself to just toss it out. And there was a few sketches in there that he managed to salvage…just a few, but still it was better than nothing he supposed.


After a few more moments of waiting around a thought suddenly hit him. Maybe his parents had already left to the dinner. It wasn’t as if they knew he wanted to go, and since he usually didn’t attend unless he needed to they probably thought this time was no different. And had the Shogun not said anything about it he knew he wouldn’t have gone. In fact he didn’t even know that there was a dinner tonight, he hadn’t heard his parents talking about anything. But it looked as if this was one of the ones he had to go to since the Shogun had directly told him he hoped to see him there.


A small part of him was still a little wary, but then again maybe he didn’t have anything to worry about. Perhaps he was just showing interest in Cloud because he was the Chamberlains son. Maybe he had jumped to conclusions…or Zack had. He wasn’t sure. But it was just a dinner and he had to go. The last thing he needed was for his dad to find out that the Shogun wanted him to attend and he hadn’t.


With that thought in mind Cloud decided to just head down to the dinner hall. At this time he was sure his parent’s had to be there already and he didn’t want to arrive too late. Stepping out of his place he closed the door before making his way out of his quarters. It was pretty quiet by now, how it usually was by this time. But he knew the closer he got to the dinner hall that it would become more lively.


Another sound of footsteps caught his attention and he looked over to see that blond woman Elena approaching him.


“Good evening Cloud.”


“Good evening,” Cloud replied while giving her a bit of a questioning look. What was she doing here and not at the dinner?


“I’m glad I caught you. Where do you think you’re going?” She asked while narrowing her eyes a bit.


“To the dinner,” Cloud answered before giving her a bit of a look of his own. Where did she get off talking to him like that? He knew by know that she was part of the Shogun’s council but he didn’t know what her title was exactly. But whatever she was he still didn’t like the fact that she seemed to be a bit rude.


“I’m here to take you there. Let’s go,” She explained while turning and walking off in the opposite direction.


What the hell? “It’s fine, I don’t need an escort.”


Stopping in her tracks she turned around with a small smirk on her face. “I think you would get lost.”


Not replying Cloud just gave her a confused look. Was she trying to be sarcastic or was she talking about something else entirely?


“It’s not the dinner hall that you’re heading too. The Shogun wanted a more private dinner,” she explained while taking a few steps closer to him, “so that you two could become better acquainted.”


Sucking in a breath as soon as the woman uttered those words Cloud felt a shiver run through him.


Elena’s smirk seemed to widen slightly as she noticed the tension that seemed to appear suddenly in the boy before her. “Are you alright?”


Shaking his head a bit Cloud spoke up. “Why…what reason would he have…for that?”


“I suppose he’s interested in your art. It seems to have caught his attention, he thinks you’re very talented,” Elena explained before waving her hand for him to follow. “Come on let’s not keep him waiting.”


No. No, there was no way. He couldn’t go meet the Shogun now…by himself! Definitely not now. Not after what he knew. This couldn’t all be some coincidence right? He was starting to feel nauseous as each minute passed by and he couldn’t help but hear Zack’s words from a couple weeks ago play in his mind.


If he asks for you or tries to arrange some meeting, don’t go. Stay away from him.’


“I uh,” Cloud began while trying to think up some excuse quickly. “I don’t think I can. My parent’s don’t know and they would worry when they saw I wasn’t at home.”


“Chamberlain Saito is in a meeting. Along with a few other council members. I presume it’ll be a while. And I can send a message back to your mom,” Elena explained, not at all missing a beat.


What was he going to do? What could he do? Was he even able to turn down an invitation from the Shogun? Wouldn’t he get in some kind of trouble? And if his father found out he did, wouldn’t he be angry? Zack said that he just had to avoid him, but what was he supposed to do when Hojo actively sought him out?


Even with all of those things running through his mind, somehow his feet began to move on their own and he was following Elena. He felt like…he really had no choice. If he flat out turned down the invitation, would the Shogun hold some grudge against him and his family? Would his father’s position as Chamberlain on the council somehow be in jeopardy? He didn’t know. He didn’t know what to do and he felt confused as hell. Even though he wanted nothing more than to turn right back around and go home and lock himself in…he just…couldn’t. There was too many shades of gray in what he thought was just black and white.


Calm down. Maybe it’s nothing.


He wasn’t sure how long they had been walking, or to what part of the castle they were in now, but shortly after Elena had come to a stop and he did also. Looking around he realized that they had indeed ventured off into another area of the castle, a part that he wasn’t really familiar with. They had entered to what seemed to be like some type of quarters, and were now standing in front of two dark red doors that had some design painted in black on them. It was actually pretty interesting, and if Cloud hadn’t been so nervous he might’ve taken the time to really look at it.


There were two Samurai on each side of the door, they gave a nod in acknowledgement to Elena, but aside from that they were still. Cloud looked at them closely, but he didn’t know either of them.


Pulling open one of the doors Elena gestured for Cloud to go in. He hesitated briefly at the door but then went in after a moment longer.


There was a long hallway before them. Lined with a strip of red carpet down the middle and two long mirrors on each side that had solid gold framing. On one side of the hall there was a tall vase, that looked like it was made of ivory and had the image of a tiger carved into it. There was a few small plants along each side, along with small tables with even more vases placed on top of them, all of the finest quality.


Elena walked ahead of him and he followed still glancing around the hall and taking in the different objects and pieces of art.


“Sorry I’m late,” Elena spoke once she reached the end of the hallway, stepping further into the other room.


Pausing briefly when he heard the Shogun’s voice he let out a breath that he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding.


Turning around to look behind her Elena waved Cloud to come closer.


“I have to be checking back in on the meeting. I’ll return later,” she spoke to the Shogun just before turning around and giving the blond one last look before he finally stepped further into the room.


There was a large sized table in the middle and at one end the Shogun was sitting, a smile on his face once he caught sight of Cloud.


“Cloud, I’m glad you came. Come, have a seat,” he explained while gesturing to the spot next to him.


Walking over to the table Cloud slowly took a seat on the soft cushion that was placed on the ground.


The sound of a few items tinkering in the background caught his attention and he looked over to see a small woman walking over to the table with a tray in hand. She set down some tea in front of them and gave Cloud a warm smile.


Just knowing that someone else was in the room calmed him down a little and the lady appeared to be nice. He returned the smile before giving her a small bow.


“Dinner will be ready in just a few,” she explained before disappearing out of the room, leaving just Cloud and Hojo alone.


“I thought it would be nice to finally get to talk more without being pressed for time,” Hojo explained while fixing his attention back on the blond.


“Oh,” Cloud replied softly while turning his gaze towards his cup of tea. “I uh,” he began while trying to think of the right words to say. “In all due respect your Excellency, I don’t understand why you would want to go out of your way to talk with me.”


An amused laugh came from the man and Cloud slowly lifted his gaze towards him.


“Why wouldn’t I want to talk to you? I’ll admit your art caught my attention and I was curious to know more about an artist like you. It’s rare to come across someone as talented as you, right here in the castle that is,” Hojo explained.


The lady appeared again right after that carrying out a few dishes and setting them on the table before them.


“Thank you,” Cloud spoke, trying purposely to avoid responding to what Hojo had just said to him before.


The lady smiled at him before turning to the other. “Is there anything else I can get for you your Excellency?”


“No thank you Keiko,” Hojo replied while reaching for his chopsticks. “You may take off the rest of the evening.”


“Thank you,” she spoke with a bow before she turned and excused herself from the room.


Cloud felt his heart sink as soon as he heard the sound of the door close.


“Are you nervous being here Cloud?” The Shogun asked after placing a bite of food into his mouth.


Was he supposed to answer that honestly?”


“Please don’t be. Enjoy your dinner, Keiko is a great cook,” Hojo explained before reaching out for a small bottle that was on the table. “Would you like sake?”


“Please,” Cloud quickly replied. If anything, maybe that would help take the edge off. But he wouldn’t drink too much…he needed to be very aware of what was going on. After the drink was poured Cloud picked it up and took a sip. Damn it was strong, a lot stronger than some of the others he had before. There was no doubt in his mind that this had to be a very expensive brand. But then again sake was strong for him in general. He didn’t know how Zack and Reno could throw back so much of it without being affected quickly.


“It’s a shame your sketchbook was ruined, there was more I would’ve liked to see,” Hojo explained while taking a drink of the alcohol as well.


“Yeah. I’m sorry I didn’t get to show you more than just the one,” Cloud replied.


“Well, I’m sure there will be others,” Hojo answered back just as quickly.


“Possibly,” Cloud began with a nod while letting his eyes take in the place, “can I ask where exactly we are?”


“Ah, that would be in my quarters. One part of it anyways, this however is more of a guest setting,” the man explained.


“It’s nice,” Cloud decided to say as he kept his eyes roaming the area. There were a lot of paintings in this room, and different pieces of art sculptures. He couldn’t help but to admire the setting.


“I knew someone like you could appreciate it,” Hojo replied while taking another bite of his meal.


Cloud didn’t answer to that but shortly after Hojo had begun talking about something else. At first Cloud was pretty short in his responses, but after a while as they continued with their dinner he became a little more relaxed. And surprisingly he was able to talk to the Shogun quite normally. He began to feel his paranoia fade and he started to feel silly that he thought something bad would happen. It seemed like the Shogun was being honest when he said he just wanted to get to know him better. They had finished their dinner by now and were still sitting at the table talking.


“May I?” The blond asked once his eyes fell onto a painting on the other side of the room.


“Of course,” Hojo replied with a nod.


Rising up from his seat Cloud crossed the room to closely inspect the picture. It was only about three different colors, orange, brown and red. But with just those three colors it was able to create a whole other range of shades. An auburn that was used for a tree, and the red for the leaves. And the orange provided for a nice background, almost like a fading sunset when mixed with the brown. It was probably the most simple picture to many people, but to him it was great.


“Do you like it?” Hojo asked.


Cloud glanced back when he realized that the other’s voice came from right behind him and he realized that the Shogun had come over to look at the picture as well.


“Yeah,” Cloud replied while looking back to the artwork, “Ogata Korin does nice work.”


Hojo smiled, “I see you know your art.”


“I guess yeah,” Cloud answered just as he felt a hand placed on his shoulder which caused him to tense up instantly.


“What made you become interested in it?” The Shogun asked, however his voice took on a bit of a lower tone this time.


“I,” Cloud began uncomfortably. He kept his eyes forward, in some way he was afraid to look back, but he really wanted to shrug the hand away. “I don’t really know…I just always have been…since I was a kid.”


“I see,” Hojo replied while letting his hand leave from the others shoulder to run down the length of his arm gently before grasping his wrist loosely. His thumb gently moving back and forth in a caress.


It became way too close for comfort now in Cloud’s opinion and he felt that sense or paranoia creep back on him. His mind was racing insanely now with trying to figure out something to say to get him out of there, and at the same time it felt as if his throat had closed up on him. But he quickly shook off the shock and nervousness and spoke up.


“Anyways,” he began shakily, clearing his throat immediately once he noticed it, “It’s getting late so I really should be heading back now.”


“Hmm” Hojo mused while leaning down a bit lower so that now his breath was right against the blonde’s ear, “Is it late? I still think it’s rather early.”


Cloud quickly pulled away before turning around to look at the other. The look in the man’s eyes could only be described as lust and longing and that made a sense of urgency arise in the blond to get out of there as quick as possible.


“No I uh, I think I really need to be going,” Cloud explained, all the while already moving away from the other.


Giving a smile the Shogun straightened while giving a brief nod of his head. “Very well then,” he finally conceded, “I suppose it has been a long day for you.”


“Y, yes, it has,” Cloud replied once he was at what he deemed a safe distance.


“Well then I’ll see you back to your quarters,” Hojo began while taking a step forward.


“No!” Cloud blurted before shaking his head quickly, “I mean no your Excellency, there’s no need to. You’ve done enough this evening for me so thank you. But I’ll be fine getting back. Thank you for the dinner”


“It was my pleasure,” Hojo replied with a smile.


“Have a nice evening,” Cloud spoke quickly with a bow. And just as fast he had turned and made his way out of the room, not leaving any time for the Shogun to reply or second guess his decision. And he wasn’t about to stop and look back for anything.

 


xxx


Sitting there in his room he continued to stare at the gift that he had received. It had arrived early this morning, before he had even awoke. But once he had stepped foot out of his room and walked out into the living area his mom had pointed to the package. She said a “blond haired” woman had came to drop it off personally for him and asked Cloud who could’ve sent it to him. He didn’t even really remember what it was he told his mom in response to her question, but he quickly picked up the package and took it back to his room. Before he opened it he pulled the small red envelope that was stuck on the top of it off and pulled out the note from the inside.


I enjoyed your company last night and look forward to our next meeting. I hope you enjoy the gift.’


It wasn’t signed, but it didn’t need to be. Cloud knew right away who it was from, and in a way he was a slight hesitant to even open the item. But after a few moments he finally unwrapped it and pulled out the present. It was a brand new sketchbook. Far better than his last. The pages were sturdier, it was a hard cover unlike his old flimsy one, and it had way more pages than in his last. Not to mention he had even included different pencils and inks for him also.


He had gotten it earlier in the day, and yet here he was still just looking at it. What the hell was going on? He couldn’t accept it, a gift like this…well Cloud knew it was expensive, it was like the kinds real artists used. It would’ve taken him forever to save up to get a sketchbook this nice. And while he liked it, and wanted to use it…he couldn’t. Not now when it was perfectly clear that the Shogun was really interested in him. He couldn’t accept his gifts or his kind gestures any more. He knew there was an ulterior motive behind it.


A tapping on his door caught his attention and he quickly grabbed the sketchbook and began putting it back in the packaging.


“Mom I’m not hungry, I’ll eat later,” Cloud called through the door, figuring his mom was trying to get him to have some lunch since he missed breakfast again.


“Well in that case would you like a visitor?” A voice he knew all too well asked from the other side of the screen.


“Zack?” Cloud asked while instantly perking up and running over to the door and sliding it open.


And sure enough there was Zack, giving the blond his best smile. “Hey!”


“When did you get back? How did you get in?” Cloud asked a bit in surprise.


“Late last night, and your mom let me in just before she stepped out. She said she was going into town for a while,” Zack explained, “I thought I would surprise y-”


But before the other could finish his sentence Cloud had thrown his arms around his neck and held him tight.


Zack gave a bit of a chuckle before wrapping his arms around his boyfriend’s waist and pulling him close against him. “Yeah I missed you too.”


“I’m so glad you’re back,” Cloud spoke quietly before pulling back briefly to place a soft kiss against the others lips.


“Me too,” Zack replied with a grin before leaning in again and sealing the blonde’s lips in another kiss. Cloud instantly melted into it, it felt like it had been forever, and well to him it really was forever. But it seemed like that kiss was all he needed to make him feel better. All of his worry, stress and anxiety seemed to began to fade away. The crazy day he had before slipping farther into the back of his mind. There was no Aerith or Hojo, just he and Zack. The way it was supposed to be, just them.


“You had a safe trip?” Cloud asked once they broke their kiss, his eyes staring up into Zack’s.


“Yeah, everything went well,” Zack replied while still keeping his arms around the others waist.


“You sure? No injuries?” Cloud asked, and already his hands were running over the other as if to check for himself. He had seen Zack come back with injuries before, and it was one of the things that always made him worry, whether or not the Samurai would be hurt in some way. And he never felt completely at ease until he had Zack right there in front of him, so that he could physically touch and see that he was okay.


“Of course not!” Zack beamed while lifting Cloud up off the floor playfully, “stop worrying about me! Tell me how your week has been?”


Placing his hands on the sides of Zack’s arms Cloud looked away. “Fine…nothing important to tell.”


Zack kept his gaze on the other, his smile fading a bit as he studied the smaller one. He could usually tell when something was bothering Cloud, for one he could never look him in the eye if he was lying or he was uneasy about something. And he could practically feel him tense up in his arms just now, something he would never do otherwise.


“Hey, what’s wrong?” Zack asked, his voice becoming serious as he placed the other back down on the ground.


“Nothing,” Cloud replied while turning his gaze back to Zack.


“You sure?” Zack pressed on as he felt Cloud pull away from his embrace.


“Yeah, I’m fine,” Cloud replied while walking over to the package that was on the ground and picking it up before placing it into his closet, “you want to get out of here for a while?”


Glancing down to the floor Zack’s eyes landed on a small envelope that fell from the package when Cloud picked it up. There was a piece of paper sticking out of it and it seemed like it had something written on it.


“Oh you dropped something,” Zack began while picking up the envelope.


“What?” Cloud asked while turning around after he slid his closet door closed. Once he saw that Zack was now holding the envelope in his hands he felt his stomach drop. He hadn’t planned on letting Zack see that, or even telling him about any of what happened…not now anyways. “Give that to me,” he said quickly while crossing back over towards the Samurai. But it was already too late, Zack had read the short note and now was just staring at the paper, probably trying to make sense of it.


“I enjoyed your company,” Zack began while reading the note out loud before lifting his gaze to meet the blonde’s. He held a confused expression on his face but his tone was nothing but demanding. “What the hell is this?”

 


xxx



 


A/N: And here is chapter 3! Unfortunately Zack had to be gone for most of this one cause I needed those two crucial moments with Aerith and Hojo and well, he couldn't be around. But now that that's knocked out of the way the story will start to pick up from here! Now that the foundation is pretty much laid down. And the Hojo stuff has just began so...I hope you guys don't squirm too much! Anyways, thanks for the reviews everyone please keep them coming, they are my motivation! Will have chapter 4 up soon!





 


 


 


 


 





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