Fandom: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Summary: Cloud and Denzel head out to hunt zoloms.
In the end, Cloud was a little surprised that Tifa hadn't come on the trip as well, for all the complaining and worrying she'd done. But things had changed - he was stronger and a few little zoloms weren't as much of a challenge as they'd been back then...
Besides, if he really wanted to put himself in danger, he would have gone after the herd of Malboros that he'd been begged to destroy. That was waiting for a little more backup than just the young man now half-sleeping at his feet.
"Denzel," Cloud said softly as he reached down to try to push Denzel a little farther away from the campfire he'd built to keep them warm until morning.
"I'm tired," Denzel replied softly but took the hint and scooted back a handful of inches.
"Get your rest." Cloud really wasn't sure what being Denzel's age was like - he hadn't been lucky enough to have his freedom at that point in time. But Denzel was a strong, growing boy. Not as strong or as tall as he might have originally been fated to be, but he finally had surpassed Marlene, which was a start.
"I know," Denzel said as he settled back down and pulled his blanket over him. The blanket. Their only blanket.
After a few minutes, when Cloud was fairly sure that Denzel was asleep, he tossed one last piece of wood onto the fire and edged under the blanket. At least he was tired as well - he wouldn't over-think anything. Wouldn't dwell on the hours-long motorcycle ride to get out to the edges of the swamp with Denzel pressed against him.
He always tried to banish those thoughts.
And thankfully he didn't dream.
The sun was rising over the hills when he woke for the day. Denzel was still fast asleep and barely stirred when he slipped away to stretch and start breakfast cooking over the coals of their fire.
Breakfast didn't consist of much - tinfoil and bacon and bread, things that could be piled on a dying fire to cook of their own accord. As far as he knew there were only two Zoloms to take care of. Not too bad.
The food was nearly ready when Denzel finally opened his eyes and blearily looked over at Cloud.
"It's cold without you," he murmured as he sat up with the blanket still wrapped around him.
"The sun will be up soon," Cloud replied. He poked at the nearly-cooked bacon. "Breakfast is almost done."
Denzel smiled and was quiet until Cloud tossed a too-hot and slightly black sandwich in his direction.
"They seem to be groggy in the morning," Cloud noted. "Just like you."
"Zoloms are cold-blooded," Denzel shot back between bites. "I'm not."
Cloud knew that. Very well. He just nodded and started packing the rest of their sparse gear on Fenrir.
The second of the beasts was the one that was giving them trouble. The sun was high over the plains and swamp and while the first of the two had still been groggy, this one wasn't.
Denzel, Cloud happily noted, was managing to hold his own against the creature. Even though he could have knocked the Zolom down with a blow or two, Cloud didn't. Denzel wanted to learn to fight and this was as valuable an experience as was available.
When the beast whipped its tail around and sent Denzel flying, Cloud was torn on how to react. But running to Denzel wouldn't do a bit of good if he was going to get killed in the process.
He raised his sword and leaped at the creature. After an off-balance nick, it turned and lunged back at him. Cloud followed through, swinging with all his might and cleanly slicing the zolom straight down the middle for half the length of its body.
It fell with a sickening thud to either side of him, raining down blood and gore. Cloud blinked.
In a split second he'd turned and was running to Denzel's side, even though Denzel was sitting up and more shocked than injured. Cloud crouched down, forgetting his appearance as he grabbed Denzel's hands.
"Are you hurt?" Cloud asked slowly, afraid of the answer.
"I'm fine," Denzel shakily replied. "You..."
"Too bad it's not very tasty," Cloud interrupted. He wasn't hurt. He let go of Denzel's hands and stood. He wanted to see Denzel stand - that would reveal any injuries that Denzel hadn't even noticed.
"Eww." Denzel scrambled up, grabbing his own sword as he did so. Perhaps he really had bounced. But he'd still be sore in the morning.
"Learned from experience," Cloud commented. That had not been pleasant. "You did well."
"No." Denzel shook his head. "You... You were..."
"It's nothing," Cloud replied as he surveyed the scene one last time and started walking off towards where they'd camped and left Fenrir. "I guess I don't mind doing this. But there are others who..."
"Well I think you're incredible," Denzel said quickly as he ran a few steps to catch up to Cloud.
Cloud stopped. Denzel crashed into him. And wrapped his arms tightly around Cloud's stomach to hold him in place.
"I mean... Um... Thank you."
Horrified yet strangely calm, Cloud reached down to cover Denzel's hands with one of his. He was probably smearing blood all over them both.
They stayed like that for a few minutes, letting the breeze blow across the field and move everything around them even though they stayed still.
"We can stay the night in Kalm," Cloud finally said as he released his grip on Denzel. There was a pause before Denzel moved.
Denzel was blushing a deep red when he stepped to Cloud's side. There was no point in pushing. Things would follow however they were meant to.
Halfway back to Fenrir, when he noticed that Denzel was keeping close to him but not looking up or saying a thing, he reached down and grabbed Denzel's hand.
Kalm would be a good place to stop, after all. Logical. Tifa didn't much like excesses of blood in the building.
It was a start.
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