Author's Notes: Finally got to the piece. I've been trying to plan Sephiroth's revenge for a while now, and when Tetsuya, my idol, gave Zack such a wimpy name, well, the idea just jumped from my head full born… Okay, yes, I'm on a greek myth kick and that was a reference to Athena. So sue me. I would suggest some look back on theme orange, titled Dead Meat to understand just WHAT Sephiroth is getting revenge for. And look, we get a full explanation of Zack's little system of beliefs.
Warning: While I don't OWN these characters and they are full property of Square-Enix, I DO reserve the idea of the second Wednesday and last Monday of the month for their specific superstitious values. Use of them in fics will result in a VERY moody female on a mission, so PLEASE ask before you use them. That is all I want.
By all standards, the day was going well. He'd gotten up on time, hadn't missed any meetings, went through his training regiment in record time, and the cafeteria had seemed to be offering something other than the gray glop they called food, if only for a day. In fact, in this world that was the life of a ShinRa SOLDIER, many men would have called it a fabulous day, one of those ones where you were lucky to be alive. Taken at face value, this was one of those days where lady luck was on your side and everyone knew your name…
Zack Donovan wasn't the kind of person that took things at face value. No, he was a man that believed in the uplifting power of a smile, the charm of a well timed wink, and the influence that came with overwhelming optimism. More than that, Zack Donovan was a very superstitious man. Now he didn't believe in that junk about walking under ladders, or stepping on cracks, or even breaking a mirror, but he did have his own little things that put him on edge. For example, it was his personal belief that if you could get a person to laugh within three minutes of meeting them, they would look up to you. If you could get that laugh within two, you'd gotten yourself a friend. And if you had them laughing in under a minute, they would be dependable to the very end.
What he believed in most, though, was not actions, but dates. For example: the twenty-third of the month (so long as it was not the last Monday of the month) was a day that was prosperous and, nine times out of ten, would result in some fine meal. The fifth of the month, like the twenty-third, was lucky in that any contests entered upon this day would undoubtedly be won by him. The seventeenth of the month invariably lead to something bad, but not horrible, like his favorite casual clothes being stained, or someone breaking plans with him. Of all of the days he had little superstitious beliefs for, none were as powerful as the second Wednesday and the last Monday of the month, and for quite different reasons.
The second Wednesday of the month was almost a holy day. All of the greatest things that ever happened to Zack had occurred on the second Wednesday of the month. He'd been born on the second Wednesday, met his first girlfriend, got laid for the first time, made friends with the silver haired general (but it took just under two minutes to make him laugh), and even met this great kid named Cloud. Each of his promotions had come upon the second Wednesdays of the month, and so had his assignment as a squad leader. All the coolest materia and weapons seemed to come into his hands on the second Wednesday, and no matter what kind of trouble he caused, be it by prank or accident, ever came to bite him in the ass on the second Wednesday. In fact, he had come to a point where he damn near felt invincible on that special day.
Where the second Wednesday was almost a holy day for the youth, the last Monday of the month was a day of darkness. Nothing good seemed to happen on this day. While it could start pleasantly, it almost always went sour. No pranks were successful, paperwork would always be demanded, and nine times out of ten Zack ended up paying the bar tab. Yes, they might seem like minor things, but they always happened on that one day in particular. Maybe it was because Zack knew this and almost inflicted it upon himself. Maybe it was because he shared his beliefs with others that the bad things always came on that day. Maybe it was something truly unholy about that day in particular, as he would discover later in life when, upon the last Monday of a certain month, he had found his friend in the basement of a mansion in Nibelheim, utterly psychotic. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that he was fated to die on the last Monday of the last month of the year…
So, it was because of these beliefs that Zack lived by that he was on edge today. Sure, things had been going his way, but that was the problem. He knew what day it was, he'd checked his calendar twice to make sure there was no mistakes. Today was the last Monday of the month, so things were bound to go wrong somehow. Would they ship him out to Wutai? Maybe the power would go out and he'd be forced to baby sit panicky recruits. What if Reno had been shipped out on a mission for the night and the red head wouldn't be able to go drinking? There were so many things that could go wrong today, each thought worse than the last. What stuck out in his head the most, though, was the thought of the look that he'd seen in Sephiroth's eyes earlier that morning.
To be fair, Zack knew that the General should be after him today. He had, in months previous, shared his rather… interesting point of view about dates with the man. Sephiroth had merely raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow (because seriously, did his eyebrows actually grow like that or did he have image consultants or something?) and given Zack his normal 'you can't be serious' look. On top of that, Zack knew he probably deserved whatever could be plotted against him after that whole silly string affair earlier in the month (speaking of which, he hadn't seen Cloud around much since then. He had gotten away hadn't he?). Chances were that the General was at this very moment finding a way to get back at him when he was at his most vulnerable, on this vilest of all days.
But Zack, he was better than that, right? At least, that was what he'd been telling himself all through the day. Even on a day like this he couldn't be in any way harmed by anything Sephiroth planned. The guy just wasn't creative unless he was fighting. And it wasn't like they were in some big battle, was it? Right?
Aw, who was he kidding?
Zack sighed and poked at the pizza upon his plate, one hand against his overly spiky head, and sighed. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't fool himself. SOMETHING had to happen. The day was just going far too well for it not to. And the waiting was making a lot worse. He wasn't all that big on suspense.
So focused was he upon finding the trouble before it reached him that Zack didn't notice the chuckling at first. What he didn't notice was that it had been following him around all day now, a sort of irritating buzzing that demanded one's attention but was brushed off time and time again… like knowing tax day was coming up. He was, after all, used to laughter and snickers during lunch. What he forgot though was that he was used to CAUSING that laughter, giving a reason for those snickers. Because of this, the event he had been dreading was upon him before he even realized that he'd been circling it for hours.
What shook him into reality, what forced him to notice what was going on was two snickering second classes arriving at his table and apparently arguing over who got to sit next to him. While nothing really important normally, as people always wanted to sit with him, it was the wording that caused him to sit up a bit straighter.
"Hey! It's my turn to sit next to Zack," the one second class said, barely holding back his chuckles as he attempted to balance his tray and elbow the other SOLDIER away from the spot.
"That's not fair, you sat next to him yesterday," the other one responded, shoving right back.
"I got here first, it's only fair."
Zack blinked and looked up at the two recruits. He didn't really know either of them well, or even by name, so he had no clue why they would want to sit by him. Still, he was Zack, and Zack was a people person. So he just grinned up at the two and slid into the center spot at the table.
"It's okay. You can both sit by me."
After a moment the two second classes did just that, plopping down on either side of him, while both still grumbling about how unfair it was, making sure to stress the fair part.
No sooner had Zack pushed this from thought than his ears caught another conversation from behind him.
"You know, it's really not fair that you got the last pudding. You didn't even want it until I reached for it!"
"It's not fair of you to accuse me," the third class replied. "You just reminded me of how much I wanted pudding."
"It's still not fair."
"You know what they say kid, all's fair in love and war… and lunch."
Zack had barely latched on to how odd it was for that word to pop up so much before he caught a snippet of another conversation.
"…fair tonight? Supposed to be tons of fun."
"You're not playing very fair…"
"You said this would be a fair trade…"
When it hit him, it was like a ton of bricks. Zack stood up so fast that, were he in a chair, it would have surely toppled. If he knew one thing it was that 'fair' did not show up in the casual conversations of SOLDIERs. They'd been trained that life wasn't fair and that you had to get used to it or die trying. In fact, that little comment about a fair, or reference to such an event, was totally unfounded. The soonest fair was actually a festival and not until next month. This could only mean one thing.
Glowing mako eyes darted around the room, not even noticing how others were staring at him and snickering at the realization that he'd gotten the whole thing. They did not rest until they met a set of tinkling, mako green eyes on the far side of the room.
The dark haired SOLDIER untangled himself from the table and walked right up to the General. He ignored the silence that settled, as it always did, when he confronted the smirking silver haired bastard and shoved a gloved finger right into his face.
"What did you do?"
No one spoke, everyone waited to see just how the General would react, like they always did. Zack just wanted to turn on them some day and yell that the man didn't have THAT much of a stick up his ass and didn't bite… often. But this was not the time to be doing that.
"Did you know, Zackary," Sephiroth began, smiling that knowing little smile he sometimes had, "that in my position I'm capable of reviewing the files upon all employees of ShinRa, especially those who are enlisted?"
"You didn't…" Zack almost snarled, the hand that wasn't in Sephiroth's face curling into a tight fist.
"Including," the arrogant swordsman continued, ignoring the threat, "background checks?"
Zack had known Sephiroth could do such a thing. He'd even used that to find out stuff about other people after bribing the General. But he'd never suspected Sephiroth would actually do something this low, this despicable.
"You didn't," was all he could manage, and he must have looked a fool to repeat himself.
"All things considered, I cannot blame you for it, Zackary. I mean, Donovan is a nice name, and people have had far worse reasons to fake their name upon official ShinRa documents. But, was it Fair of you to assume that I wouldn't know?"
"You bastard," Zack said, more than ready to punch the silver haired man.
"As they say, Zackary, all is Fair in love and war. Even giving up a man's real name to legions of creative young men who are always more than willing to taunt someone."
With this the silver haired man pushed off of the wall and past his subordinate. He didn't even flinch as he heard Zack's fist come into contact with a metal wall that would probably need a dent fixed come morning.
"I expect you in my office in twenty minutes, Mister Fair. You've got paperwork to finish."
Under his breath Zack swore and punched the wall again. Only Sephiroth, only that soulless, heartless bastard would dare out his name like that. And now everyone knew. Gods the puns that would be flying around by the end of the day. Damnit, and as if he hadn't had enough growing up.
"This isn't over," he mumbled to himself, delivering one last punch to the wall before making for the nearest exit. "This isn't over."
There were, in truth, things worse than having a last name like his own. Not many, of course, but there were things worse. And Zack intended to find them and inflict them upon the silver haired demon. Just because his last name was Fair didn't mean he had to behave in such a manor.