Soda

by Rin and Court (Chocobutt and Porcupine)

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mostly typed by Court

proofreading and other typing by Rin

plot-wickedness by both Rin and Court

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Summary: Wading through feelings of guilt and depression, all Zack can think about as he wanders through Midgar is how he should be dead. However, a chance encounter with a certain someone leads to redemption and frustrated love besides... (Very unorthodox pairing. We warned you.)

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Rin's A/N: Zack x.... someone. XD Believe me, you'll figure out who it is pretty quickly once we give you the identity hints, and when you do you'll probably be all like "OMGWTTTTFFFFFFF," but bear with us and be open-minded. This whole thing was sparked by a certain joke that a certain friend made on a certain message board, and at first, we were all "EWWWW GROSS HAHA FUNNY" but slowly... we came to.... love it. XD They're our favorite FFVII characters, after all! So just take it all in slowly. Me and Court (Court and I, whatever -_-) have been having LOTSA fun with this. D (Not gonna say if it's straight or shounen-ai, 'cause that would give stuff away. :P)

Court's A/N: It starts off angsty, but it gets funny soon enough. XD Yes, please be open-minded and you might end up liking the pairing just as much as we do. :D

Rin: Yo, thazza right. Gimme some skin, sistah!

Rin: ......::Is killed.::

Court: ::phnx downnzzzzz::

Rin: Er.... right. Anyhoo, you can decide when the weird pairingness begins

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When I'm with you, baby, the skies will be blue for all my life....

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1: Flames Below

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They'd.... they'd lied to him... hadn't they....?

He walked down the stone street, his face devoid of emotion as a million disconnected thoughts churned madly through his head. Flames lashed out at him from the buildings around him, flames which he didn't feel against his torn flesh or his ash-flecked hair as his deceivingly cold eyes slowly roamed across the expanse of ground in front of him that had once served as the town square when there hadn't been gore-covered bodies lying across it.

Whose fault was it, anyway?

His or.... his...?

Confusion.

No, no, they had lied. There was no other reason to come to this place--no reason at all to except to get him to get rid of the problem. Maybe strike a blow somewhere that needed to be struck. Inwardly and outwardly... showing off their power on the ones who didn't stand a chance...

They were innocent....

He'd
killed them all, no one left alive except for him-----HIM and a few of the others who'd fled to the mountains once the attack had ended and the killing had started--the slaughtering, murder, whatever you wanted to call it, and that's exactly what would happen to all of them too once they met the backup guards that would be inevitably sent in once it was discovered what was going on... and once they decided that some townspeople needed to be shut up for good.

Like... like raining bullets and blades...

He should have never joined Shin-Ra. Maybe never been born, even. He should have never even let himself consider working for the bastards, coming back to the place that he'd hated for ages just for unfulfilled ambition and some risky thrills.

He'd gotten to the top and now look at him... A useful piece of engineering, designed to protect business with metal, seal deals with blood.... but even that.... even that he had failed miserably at. Even they hadn't wanted this to happen, he decided as he absentmindedly kicked aside a piece of rubble in his way. He was mildly surprised when he felt something sticky on the bottom of his boot and pulled up his foot, looking down to find a dark-tanned arm severed from an unseen body at the shoulder with a bloody shoe imprint upon it.

He should have been desensitized enough to stand that by now. By those movies and war games they'd made them all sit through during training, the ones he had found gave him some kind of undecipherable, yet warm instinctual pleasure. Not to mention the first day they'd been sent out to kill---brandishing their weapons like boys on a fox hunt---allowed to trample down anyone in the field that they wished. Some way to kill their souls, he guessed. Some way to snuff out their consciences.

Desensitization. He thought it had worked on him just as well as the others, but it couldn't have, because just then, he calmly turned away, put a hand to to a brick wall that wasn't burning, and was able to bend down just far enough so that he didn't stain his shirt when he found himself emptying out his lunch through the putrid, burning taste of bile.

I won't.... can't forgive......... can't........

It stopped, but it was too late now, his hard composure shaken to the core from a half-hour of this kind of scenery. He was breathing fast and uncontrollably, his eyes shut fast and sobs in his throat as he put the palm of his hand tightly to his mouth.

See no evil.... speak no evil..... DO no evil.... No.... GOD.... No..... This isn't.... Can't... not.... happening... Didn't do this didn't do this didn't do this couldn't have nonono not someone like that you know not someone like that should know better know better know it's wrong know what they were doing HOW THE FUCKING HELL?!?

If they'd seen him this way... if he had seen him this way.... anyone.... Look, haw, haw, a tough guy gone the way of the dodo, an asswipe crybaby who couldn't come to terms with the fact that he could have prevented this entire thing.... left instead.

He shakily brought his palm away from his mouth, and then gently brought the back of his hand back towards it, slowly wiping away the remnants of what had once been sloppy joes and fries. He knew the thought of food would probably just bring more stuff up, though---physically and mentally, and so he didn't think at all about the subject, just thought about.... him.

Were those tears in the corners of his eyes?

Couldn't be.

Couldn't think, didn't want to think, no thinking, too.... couldn't....

But that was the only explanation, wasn't it? Who else could have caused so much devastation? Who else would be capable of this--of just killing, killing, killing, without a second thought even as yells rolled upon their eardrums and yells pierced their bones? Who else was capable of following orders and then breaking the rules for no reason, no reason at all except for madness and bloodlust....

Jesus.....

The man's breaths were hard as he leaned against the brick wall almost helplessly, everything so close around him as he shut his eyes tighter and the cacophony of crackling wood pounded through his head.

Dear God.

He was a killing machine.

He'd realized it before... when he'd watched blood fly amid the clash of steel and the pop-bang of bullets. But never like this, never.... All this carnage.... With a single sweep of the town, not one person helping him carry out his mysterious deeds....

What the hell was he thinking?!

A one-man job, that's what Shin-Ra had told them in the briefing---search, find, and report back to headquarters. It wasn't really anything important, just a routine check, but more than one man had come anyway.

And now they were dead, all of them. He'd found some sort of camraderie with most of them---he was a cheerful kind of guy most of the time, optimistic, grinning..... They'd liked him even as a superior officer, and that had been good. Shin-Ra had liked that.

He had a feeling that would change from now on. His outlook on life and the fact that there was no way a few bloody corpses could find any friendship in the man that had betrayed them to their deaths.

Betrayed, betrayed, that's what he was, betrayed... By Shin-Ra and everyone else and himself... That.... that one.... he must have....
The enhancements...? Only explanation, dammit..... Wasn't there that time... there on the train or the plane or wherever the hell that was...? You were asleep, then, weren't you...? Killing machine, killing machine, you'd think you'd come up with a new name by now, but goddammit, what the HELL.

He looked up towards the starry sky, now only partially covered by billowing smoke and tainted with the rancid smell of death.

Fuck Shin-Ra.

Fuck him.

He didn't care anymore. He really didn't. What he actually was supposed to be caring about was even vague at this moment, pushed back into the dark recesses of his brain as the sobs were pushed back into his lungs and the apathetic look returned to his face. He stood up. What to do next, he wondered to himself. What to do next....

Blame it on someone else, maybe. He scrunched his eyes tight again; the thought of having someone else take responsibility for his lack of action made him sick. Or maybe pretend he wasn't even here when it happened---that sounded a little better.

Shin-Ra would just rebuild this place anyway...

He tried not to think about how the people who used to live there wouldn't be able to do it themselves.

That's what he'd do. He straightened himself, suddenly confident in his decision. He'd meet up with Shin-Ra somewhere else, somewhere far away from here. And... maybe he could get some answers before he threw himself off a cliff or something along those lines.

In any case.... He looked towards the mountains, his eyes narrowing as they met their tall peaks on the horizon. He had other business to attend to, and maybe, just maybe, he could redeem himself and be free of guilt... Not that he could remember right now what exactly he was guilty of or why he had a burning need for redemption. It was a bit perturbing-----not knowing what he himself was running from, forgetting it within a period of minutes and beginning to believe his own lies.

It was okay, though.

He'd block it all out eventually.

After all, he was the only one who could.

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Some time later...

Receding footsteps echoed in his mind until silence ruled over all. The wind whipped through, a cold, biting gust that made the experience even worse. He took in a deep, sharp breath, then letting out a moan of....

Pain. It seemed to be that that was the only feeling he could recognize anymore.

Pain.

Teeth were grit as he fought to push it out, away from his dismantled form. It was stubborn, however, and would not budge. Instead, as if in order to spite him, it spread. Searing through his flesh, a burning sensation that he felt would never cease. The wounds he had were too many. He wouldn't make it.

Yet then it kicked in. The 'painkiller' that had been so violently infused in him... Mako. And then the pain did cease, seeming to wash out almost too quickly. He gasped for breath as it left, like he had been underwater, suffocating...

But that was over. It had passed. He was alive. And all that mattered now was keeping it that way.

Gripping the grass between clenched fingers, he pulled himself up, watching the blood that flowed. Hands were already sticky from the red fluid that had spilled onto them, but he didn't seem to mind.

Damn bullets... this is gonna hurt. Bracing himself, he lifted an arm adorned with the metal caplets, and reached for one, digging his fingers into his flesh, grasping the bullet between two fingers, and then violently pulling it out. "Khh..!" Wincing at the shot of pain, he then watched as that surreal emerald glow of Mako enveloped the wound, leaving perfect, unscathed skin.

....This was gonna take a while.Ê

One by one, bit by bit, the process was repeated. And then, by his reckoning, anyway, everything was fine and dandy.

...Ehh, not quite. He was still extremely exhausted from the trip across country with Chocobo Head, and the amount of blood loss didn't help, either. He gave a morbid smile at the pool of blood he had managed to create around him.

..'Least I'm not dead in it.

What now...? Cloud... what had happened to him?Ê The boy was nowhere to be seen.

They had managed to escape... breaking out when some warden brought them food. How wonderfully nice of them; they actually fed them. Glowing eyes were closed in frustration at all he had lived for. Shin-Ra.. SOLDIER.. it had been his life for the past few years; traveling around, even when he had first started as a foot soldier, had been the love of his life, and now he couldn't help but feel... betrayed.

Everything was sort of... off. His vision, which was somewhat enhanced by normal standards, was even blurred. He searched around the area for his friend once again. ..where was his sword? Maybe... he took it..? Annoyed, he was craving some answers. Everything seemed so far away... He gave a shake of his head, trying to clear his mind, but that only seemed to cause a sharp pain to crack through his skull, immediately followed by a persistent ache.

What the hell was he going to do...?

"Aerith.." The name was uttered slowly. He had cancelled her out earlier thanks to her nit-picking mother, but she was one of the only people he knew that lived in the Slums, or even in all of Midgar for that matter.

I don't seem to have much of a choice, he thought bitterly. He tried to figure out how he was going to get to his feet, let alone across the Slums, in his condition.ÊÊ

Pushing both hands against the ground, he exerted all of his energy into lifting himself up onto his feet. Luckily he was successful on the first try, if a bit shaky on his feet. Running one hand through spikes of hair and letting out a sigh, he took a few daring steps forward to test out his condition. He did surprisingly well for someone that had lost probably more than a pint of blood, and in just a few minutes was making his way, slowly but surely, down the cliffside. A few times he almost did stumble and lose even more of that precious blood, but he didn't seem to care, too lost in his own gloomy thoughts.

How was he going to find Cloud? If Aerith wasn't there, where would he stay? Just what was he going to do..? He had nowhere to go, except to his parents in Gongaga, and there was no way he was getting back across the country in his weakened state. He just needed somewhere to stay, for a few days, and then he could... maybe... sort things out a little.

He hadn't really noticed it when Cloud had been with him, but all of his ideas-- become a mercenary, earning his own pay -- he had been planning to carry out with Cloud. Now that they were separated, now that he didn't even know if his friend was dead or alive... well, he felt as if he had been led astray.

Walking in a daze through the slums, Zack seemed to think his feet would lead him where he needed to go. Then, a sudden realization dawned on him.

He should have died back there. It was only thanks to the damned torture he had been put through---for so long, it seemed, though it had only been a few months... (only...!?)---that he was alive. He was a walking, breathing zombie...

He was supposed to be dead.

Dead.

....Why didn't I just die? Why did it have to kick in...? Why... why am I still alive?

His head had been bowed for most of the time he had been strolling through the dusky residentials, if they could have even been called that, and upon looking up, with a blink, he realized that he was practically in the front of Aerith's house.

Didn't take a second thought...

Mustering up some courage, he rapped on the door with the knuckles of his right head, patiently waiting for an answer. Elmyra had never liked him very much. The Turks had been after Aerith since she was a child, making her very protective of her 'daughter'. Zack, as a First Class SOLDIER, was just another threat.

But I'm not with Shin-Ra anymore... he thought grimly. He couldn't count on both hands the number of times Elmyra had lied to him when he came over, saying Aerith was out somewhere, or sleeping, or sick. And sometimes he'd even seen the girl staring down at him from outside her window, giving him that apologetic look he had come to despise.

Well, she couldn't lie to him this time. He needed somewhere to stay. But it wasn't as if he had proof of his injuries... any traces of the wounds those Shin-Ra bastards goonies had given him were now gone.

Damn mako...

Then a creak came from the door as the woman peeked out. Her eyes widened and she stared at him for a moment before scrambling to try and close the door. Guess she hadn't changed much.

He took a quick step forward and rammed his hand into the doorway, causing her to slam his hand with the door. Yeah, it hurt, but it wasn't much compared to other things he had been through. "..this isn't just messing around this time. I need to talk to her." He was doing all he could to keep his voice calm and collected.

The look she gave him... as if she was scared of him. He didn't like it. "...I'm sorry, she isn't he--"

"Dont lie to me!" Mako eyes flared with something animalistic, causing the woman to cower back a bit.

"I'm not lying.. this time. You can come in and look if you want..." Bits of moisture were forming at the sides of her eyes.

He sighed, bowing his head. "No.. It's all right." Just as the words escaped his lips the door was shut. She really was scared of him, wasn't she? He angrily rammed his fist into the doorframe. His eyes softened, however, as they were welcomed by the sight of the small garden in the front yard, and he decided to take a stroll through it.

While walking amongst sweet fragrances and pastel colors, he began to remember times spent with the floor girl. What had they been? He wasn't too sure anymore. A couple, or just friends? Did she even remember him now? She was a nice girl... has probably already settled down with some clean-cut guy. I'm most likely just a bother to her now.
ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ
But he had nowhere else to go. He gave a rueful smile as he spotted a rose amongst a cluster of other flowers -- it was one of his favorite kinds.

He took a step forward to try and grasp the rose, but unluckily wrapped his fingers around some thorns. He jerked his hand back, then lifted it up to see a small cut. However, before the blood that was forming at the source could even sidle down his hand, there was that glow and in mere seconds it was as if the laceration had never even existed.

He gave a soft, morbid chuckle. He was beginning to speculate that the smaller the wound, the quicker his Mako kicked in. But that wasn't too important; not compared to his other broodings.

Why was he still alive? He really should've died, even with the heavy amounts of Mako in his veins. Sometimes he thought that was all that he had in his veins, now: Mako, and lots of it. It usually didn't work this way; its main purpose was to serve as a sort of mock adrenaline so that those exposed to it would excel in battle, and it could serve as a minor painkiller, but never anything of this magnitude.

It was as if something had stopped him from dying.

Did his heart still beat?

As a further blow to his stability with his sanity, he began to hear whispers, bits and pieces of a conversation that felt like they was coming from some unattainable location.

"...what happened..?"

"...supposed to be dead..."

"..stopped him?"

"...must have to come to terms with..."

"...makes no sense..."

"...can't die until..."

"...live forever?"

"...must finish his business..."

".....ease his guilt....."

"....save one as you should have saved them...."

"....redemption....."

Slowly they started to fade away -- but he felt he was beginning to understand now.

He hadn't been allowed to die, and he wouldn't be allowed to until he came to terms with... something. He gave a morbid smirk.

Immortal, huh? I can't leave it unsettled, though. But first I need to know what is is. There was no way he was going to figure it out now. He was content for now with the fact that it eventually would come to him.

Slinking back over to the building, he leaned against the wall that made the exterior front of her house, hands stuffed into his pockets, waiting.

And waiting.
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