Final Fantasy VII

Massage Therapy

By LuckyLadybug

Notes: The characters are not mine and the ficlit is! I honestly wasn't going to write this at all. It came to me while I was dozing today, and I thought it would go away. But it didn't, it only grew stronger, and whenever that happens, I know the plot bunny won't leave me alone until it's written.

Seph was stressed.

Zack found that obvious as soon the door opened and the older man shuffled inside. His shoulders were slumped, his eyes were glazed, and his bangs looked as if his fingers had run through them repeatedly.

"Man . . . long day?" Zack greeted.

Seph nodded, shutting the door behind him. "It's been a day filled with idiots," he grunted.

"And that's something you just can't stand," Zack said knowingly, watching his friend sink into the couch.

"Honestly, my patience has been stretched so thin, I can't guarantee I won't snap at the next fool who crosses my path tonight." Seph reached behind him, rubbing at the middle of his back and letting his hand journey to his lower back. It always seemed to ache after a never-ending day, but he was never certain if it was because of long hours standing or long hours sitting, or both. He had definitely experienced both today.

Zack frowned. "You look really tense, Seph," he said.

"I feel tense," Seph retorted. If it was anyone but Zack, he would not be saying this much. But he was so weary by this point that his feelings could not be concealed, and venting even a small bit felt a relief.

"No kidding." Zack observed him for a moment, an idea beginning to form in his mind. Would Seph agree to it? Probably not at first. But it might help him relax, at least a little.

"Hey, Seph, lay down on the couch," he directed now.

Seph looked over at him, raising an eyebrow. "Why?" he asked.

Zack jumped up. "I'm going to give you a backrub," he said.

Seph gave him an incredulous look. "A backrub," he repeated. No one else would ever dare to suggest such a thing to General Sephiroth. But then again, no one else was even close to him. When it was Zack, it did not sound all that strange. A smirk of amusement began to play on his lips.

Zack nodded. "Yep. But take off all that clunky armor first." He smirked, pointing at it.

"Heh." Seph stood again, reaching to undo the straps holding the armor in place. As he succeeded, the heavy metal began to slide off his shoulders. He let it fall, then took it by the straps and tossed it in the chair.

"Your coat, too," Zack said.

Seph made a grunting sound in his throat, but unbuckled the belt holding the coat at the waist. He let the black cloth slip off his shoulders and arms, and draped it over the back of the couch. Then he laid down on the soft furniture, on his stomach.

Zack flexed his fingers and cracked his knuckles before leaning over. Gathering the long silver hair in his hands, he moved it to the side, between Seph and the back of the couch. His gaze traveled over the many scars in the strong and proud back, and he gave an involuntary shudder. Sometimes, unbidden, he would get images in his mind of Seph strapped to an operating table while the mad scientists cut without mercy into the flesh. And even though the wounds had long since healed over, there was some illogical fear of hurting Seph by touching his back and the scars.

He reached out, gingerly, gently, laying his hands on Seph's shoulder blades. There was no reaction; it did not hurt him. But Zack's right hand was laying over the flap of skin under which was the wing. If he tried to rub there, it would surely be uncomfortable, at least. He moved his hand away, placing it elsewhere.

For the next several minutes he worked to get out the knots and slacken the muscles as he moved across Seph's back. Seph did not speak, but he seemed to relax further as the time went on, and Zack gradually began to increase the intensity of the rubbing.

"Do you like this?" he asked after a moment.

"Yes." Seph's voice was a half-mumble, and he sounded as if he was dozing. "But why haven't you done anything with my right shoulder?"

Zack was still massaging Seph's lower back, where Seph had been rubbing earlier. "I guess I wondered if I might hurt you, if I tried to rub where your wing is," he admitted.

"I couldn't say," Seph answered. "I've never had a backrub before."

Zack blinked. "Really?" he exclaimed.

"Really," Seph said. "No one would have been willing when I was a child, and I wasn't willing to seek out professionals as an adult."

Zack smirked again. "Yeah, that sounds like you. So, do you want me to try your right shoulder?"

"Go ahead."

Zack's right hand traveled back to that location. To start with, his motions were light and gentle. That did not bother Seph, so again he began to increase the amount of pressure. It was somewhat disconcerting, to know that right under his palm and the skin was the folded wing. It still seemed so unbelievable, that anyone would have done such a thing to poor Seph. And it also seemed unbelievable, that they had created something so beautiful from their cruel torture.

Sephiroth found it strange, that he was laying there allowing Zack to give him a massage. The other SOLDIERs would no doubt find it odd as well, considering the way Sephiroth usually came off. Not that they thought he was winterhearted; he was most often a very warm person to the other men. But at the same time, his pride was almost legendary. And this was certainly a situation where he had let down his guard.

"If anyone other than you had suggested this, I probably would have turned them down." Seph's tone was flat and matter-of-fact.

"Yeah, I bet you would," Zack smirked. "But you can't turn down your best buddy."

"Heh. So you're my 'best buddy'?" Seph sounded amused.

Zack let his voice take on a hint of mock horror. "I am, aren't I?" he said.

"What is your reasoning?" Seph returned. He was very relaxed now, enjoying their banter.

Zack rubbed at Seph's neck now, several locks of silver hair drifting over his hand. "Well, like you said---you'd never be plopped on someone else's couch, letting them touch your back. Or even see it." Seph kept his secrets well. Of course, Zack himself had not known about the wing until recently, and he had found out quite by accident. But Seph would not have had to have told Zack the truth, even after Zack had noticed the incision. It was a good indication of how far they had come since their first meeting. Seph had finally let Zack into his life.

"That isn't exactly what I said," Seph said. He paused, seeming to be digesting Zack's words---both what he had spoken and what he kept silent. "But I'm satisfied with your reasoning."

"Good," Zack grinned.

He rubbed at Seph's back for a couple minutes more. The other's breathing had deepened now; Seph was sound asleep. Zack smiled to himself, reaching for a soft throw to cover his friend.