Final Fantasy VII
What Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong
Notes: The characters aren't mine and the story is! There are very mild Crisis Core spoilers here, very mild as far as the actual storyline goes. There's really an in-game fanclub for certain characters, which Zack can join, and as soon as I read that, this started taking shape as Kaze and I began to joke about it. So ... this probably won't go along at all with the purpose the club has in the game, but please have a sense of humor and take this as it was meant to be: absolute silliness, not strict canon. And the reference to Zack having an accent is because I picture him talking like his voice actor Kenichi Suzumura, only in English. Also, the ending location of the fic, and the style of Zack trying to explain his misadventure, is inspired by Cassia's wonderful Jedi Apprentice fic Misfortune. Many thanks to Kaze for plot help, and for the giggle session that sparked the idea!
Sephiroth frowned, studying his poor second-in-command in disbelief. They were in his quarters, and Zack was sitting on the couch, blinking up at him from behind a very sore eye. His hair was splayed in every conceivable direction, with some kind of gel dripping off of it onto his face and down his neck. Not to mention several stubborn leaves, poking out as if they were a crown of a child's creation.
One of his cheeks was scratched, at least three different shades of lipstick adorned his mouth and the surrounding area, and his SOLDIER uniform was a disaster. The shirt was ripped in multiple places, as if it had been all but torn off his body. The pants were not much better. One of his shoulder pads was missing completely, as was one of his boots and even a glove. It looked as though Zack had come out on the wrong end of a fight.
"Are you going to tell me what happened now?" the bigger man grunted, crossing his arms as he tried to keep an amused smile from creeping onto his face. Zack did not seem hurt, just embarrassed, and judging from the way he had come tearing out of the darkness and barreling Sephiroth right over as if the Devil himself was giving chase, the explanation was bound to be very interesting.
Zack reached up uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, uh . . . it's nothing, really!" he exclaimed, his accent thickening the way it did when he wanted to avoid a subject. "Nothing very interesting. I just wanted to get back before something happened. . . ."
"And this wasn't something happening?" Sephiroth asked pointedly, gesturing to Zack's less-than-regulation appearance.
Color flamed Zack's cheeks. "I . . . I didn't want them to catch up," he said with awkwardness.
Ah, now they were starting to get somewhere. "'Them'?" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "I don't suppose you're referring to Wutaian soldiers," he said with sarcasm.
Zack gave a weak grin. "Scarier," he admitted.
"Angry women?" Sephiroth supplied, nodding to the smeared lipstick.
A look of alarm passed over Zack's face. Obviously he had not remembered that he had not already wiped away the offending stuff. A hand flew up to his mouth, running over it several times. Then he removed it, looking down at the shades of pink and red adorning the creases of his glove.
"Uh heh. . . ." He looked up sheepishly.
"You know, it could look bad for you if someone else saw you run in like that," Sephiroth remarked. "If you tell me what happened, I might be able to smooth things over." But he could not hold back the darkly amused smirk. "However, if you were trying to date three women at once, I'm not sure if even all of SOLDIER could protect you from their wrath."
Again Zack flamed crimson. "It was nothing like that!" he exclaimed, and before he knew it, words were coming out in a confused jumble. "I had to get away from them, Seph! I mean . . . they were looking over all those pictures of you and Genesis and Angeal, and then they realized that I looked like the guy standing with you in one of the pictures, and my cover was kinda blown. . . ." It made no sense whatsoever, and from the look he was being given, Seph was thinking the same.
"Exactly why did they have pictures of myself, to say nothing of Genesis and Angeal." He fixed Zack with a stare that demanded an explanation. "And why would you have a cover to be blown?"
"Well, because I joined their club. . . ." He was just digging a deep pit for himself. Seph would never understand this.
Zack gave a weak nod.
"And what kind of a club was this?"
Seph's towering presence was not making this any easier. Zack shifted again. Everything that was coming out of his mouth was just making it sound worse and worse. But if this was almost anyone other than Seph, it would not be so hard to explain . . . especially when it came to the nature of the club.
It came out in a rushed mumble, but somehow Sephiroth still managed to decipher it. Zack wished that he had not been able to do so.
"So," Sephiroth spoke, his voice calm, "you're telling me that you were on the run from women who possessed photographs of myself, Genesis, and Angeal because of their fanclub, which you joined for some reason, and they were angry at you because your identity had just been exposed?"
Somehow he was managing to restrain his sheer disbelief. Of course Zack had a reason for these ridiculous actions, and Zack was quite aware that he had better elaborate. Sephiroth's unruffled demeanor demanded it perhaps even more than if he had gotten angry.
Zack stared at the floor. "Yep," he said. "That's about the size of it. . . . But they weren't angry so much as just . . . affectionate." Quickly he looked up at his friend. "But it's not like it sounds! I mean, I didn't join because I'm some weird fanboy . . ." His eyes widened at how that sounded. "I mean, I'm not one . . . and . . . and . . ."
Sephiroth's expression didn't change. "Why don't you explain this from the beginning?" he asked.
Zack nodded in submission. He would have to explain better than he had been doing. "It started a couple weeks ago, when I was on patrol," he said lamely. "I saw these women meeting and I was curious because I heard them say your name, so I went over. . . ." He scratched his head, the slick gel adhering to his gloveless hand. An expression of frustration came over his features once he noticed, but it passed as he tried to pick up the threads of his story.
"So they were kinda . . . well, I guess the only word for it is cooing," he said.
"Cooing," Sephiroth repeated.
"Yeah . . . and fawning, I guess. It was pretty creepy, actually!" Zack hurriedly put in. "Well, so they were all nuts over you, and Genesis, and Angeal, and they seemed to know all kinds of weird stuff, like about Genesis's book. . . ." He shrugged helplessly. "I thought maybe somehow they'd know something useful about Genesis. I tried to ask them how they got their information, and the pictures and stuff, but they wouldn't tell me unless I joined. . . ."
"But you weren't attempting a disguise then," Sephiroth observed. "Wouldn't they have known right away who you are?"
Zack realized that he had left out some of the details. That was not surprising, when he just wanted to get this done and over with. "Well . . . I guess they've would've," he replied, "but it was a dark night and they couldn't see me too good. The idea to join just kinda came to me out of the blue, so I said I would and I . . . I gave them a fake name."
"Wouldn't they suspect that you just wanted the information?" Sephiroth asked. "And didn't they find it odd, for a SOLDIER of any kind to be joining their club?"
Zack gave a small laugh. "Well . . . I kinda had to put on an act," he said.
"An act." Sephiroth stared at him. "Do I want to know?"
"Probably not!" Zack answered instantly, though he did not hold out much hope for Seph sticking to that viewpoint.
"Tell me anyway."
Oh well. It was worth a try.
Zack continued to study the floor, absently trying to brush his hair into a more normal mess as he spoke. "I had to say how much all three of you guys are my idols and I wished I could meet you and stuff. . . . I mean, that really was true about you before I met you!" he put in then. "And I always looked up to Angeal, but Genesis . . ." He shuddered and looked away. Would Seph be mad at him for including Genesis?
"You could have said you didn't much care for Genesis," Sephiroth said in a mild tone.
"Yeah, I know. . . ." Zack smirked. "I was afraid of getting his fangirl mad right then and there."
Sephiroth grunted. "So then what happened?" he wanted to know.
"They let me in," Zack said. "And then they'd send me text messages on my phone, with meeting times, or tidbits about you guys, and stuff like that. . . ." He laughed weakly. "There wasn't really anything too useful, and most of the time they were just shamelessly fangirling. . . ."
"Fangirling?" Sephiroth kept his deadpan expression. "I'm not familiar with the term."
Zack blushed. "I wasn't, either, till I met them!" he assured. Something told him that Seph was enjoying this interrogation.
"What does it mean?" Sephiroth asked.
Zack glowered at the floor. Surely Seph could figure out what it meant, just from knowing what a fangirl was. He was definitely amused by Zack's discomfort in trying to explain. And Zack was not amused at all.
"You know . . . saying how good-looking you and the other guys are. . . . Talking about your . . ." He went beet red. "Your beautiful hair . . . your bright eyes . . . your . . ." He choked. "Your chest. . . ."
"I see." The amusement in Seph's voice could no longer be easily concealed. "And was there an adjective to describe my chest as well?"
". . . Yeah. . . ." Now even Zack's ears were on fire.
What he said next came out in a mumble that not even Sephiroth could understand.
"What was that?" he asked.
Zack wished he could drop through the floor. "Manly," he croaked.
Sephiroth kept his arms crossed over his manly chest as he continued to watch Zack's misery. This admittedly was something by which he was entertained. Zack hardly ever became so rattled. To see him lose his composure and become so mortified was something that he would probably never see again.
"And did you keep these text messages?" he queried.
Zack's eyes widened. "No!" he exclaimed, squirming on the couch cushion. "I got rid of them as soon as I saw what they were!" And one time Reno had been standing next to him when a fangirling message had come through. He had just barely managed to hide it from the curious Turk in time. If Reno had seen it, Zack would have never lived it down.
"Alright," Sephiroth nodded, deciding that he had tormented poor Zack enough on that subject, "so what happened tonight when you attended their meeting?"
Zack exhaled, relieved to have the topic changed. Not that this one would be much less humiliating.
"Well . . . I slicked down my hair like I've been doing for those meetings," he said, resuming his attempt to brush the spikes into submission. "I figured they'd recognize me instantly if I showed up with it going like it usually does."
"Probably," Seph answered in a noncommittal tone.
Zack nodded, a bit encouraged. "And I had these contacts that made my eyes look brown. . . ." He reached in vain to feel for them. "Guess they fell out," he deduced. Sensing Seph wanted him to just go on, he sighed and continued.
"So . . . I got to the place. . . . They usually meet at one of the girl's houses, and this time it was the one who really likes you. . . ." He could not seem to hold still on the couch. As Sephiroth watched, Zack shifted his weight to one side, then the other, and back again. And the blush was starting to return.
"They were all gathered around the table, looking at these pictures they'd got, and . . . and one of them had you and me walking by the marketplace. . . ." Now Zack was addressing the floor again. "They . . . they started saying stuff, and well . . . cooing again, and then one of them looked up and saw I'd come in." Even though Sephiroth could not see Zack's face at the moment, he was quite certain that the pigmentation was now across his friend's face in full force.
"She said 'Hey, wait a minute, you're the guy in this picture', and then the others looked at it and then me, and I tried to tell them it was crazy. . . ."
"But they didn't buy your excuses?" Sephiroth supplied.
"Not really. . . ." And now they were coming to another really embarrassing part. "They . . . they said you and me looked . . . cute. . . ."
"Cute," Sephiroth repeated, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah. . . . And they were all starting to get up and surround me. . . ." He straightened somewhat, shivering at the memory. "They'd heard somehow that I . . . well, that I kinda flirt sometimes," he said to the wall. "And they wanted me to . . ." Another rush of mumbled words.
Sephiroth listened, attempting to decode it. "They wanted you to meet their pet turtle?" he frowned. Something must have been lost in translation.
"They wanted me to play Spin the Bottle!" Zack burst out, turning back to face Seph.
The continuing pokerface was more maddening than ever. "Did you accept, out of fear for your life?" Seph asked.
"No!" Zack retorted. "I was trying to inch over to the door and tell them goodbye."
"You must have looked nervous."
"They thought I was cute being nervous," Zack muttered. "Then one of them just . . . just leaned in and kissed me!"
"You didn't pull away?" Seph smirked.
"I couldn't!" Zack shot back. "I got bombarded! They all grabbed me and kissed me! I was flailing around trying to get to the door!"
"And you ended up like this in the process." Seph eyed Zack's appearance again.
"Yeah . . . a bit. My cheek got scratched, and I got punched in the eye, but I think it was an accident." Zack frowned. "One of them grabbed my shoulder pad, but I just undid it and let it go. Somebody else tried to grab my hand, but they got my glove instead. So I pulled open the door, ran out, and came back here!" He finished in a rush, hoping that would be the end of it.
Seph nodded slowly, thoughtfully, in a way Zack did not like. "That doesn't explain everything, though," he commented.
"What else is left?!" Zack exclaimed, gesturing with his arms in a wild way. "I said who the women were, why I was with them, and
how I got away!"
"You didn't mention how your clothes got so badly torn. Or where the leaves came from. Or what happened to your boot," Seph pointed out, his voice still perfectly calm.
Zack glowered. "One of the creepy fangirls got the boot, too!" he said.
"While you were running out the door?"
Zack's shoulders slumped. "No. . . ."
Seph was not going to let this go. "I was running for a while," Zack said lamely, "and they were chasing me. I ran into this really low-hanging tree branch at one point, and that's when the leaves got stuck in my hair. But I just kept going."
"You're lucky a twig didn't put your eye out."
"Yeah, I know." Seeing Seph's expectant look, Zack sighed and continued. "One of the girls tackled me when I was going down the steps of the Red Light hotel." He mentally kicked himself as soon as he said this.
"What, pray tell, were you doing at the Red Light hotel? Wouldn't that be the worst possible place to go with three rabid 'fangirls' seeking you?"
"I ran in the back way," Zack grumbled. "I thought it'd be a shortcut past the bars and stuff. With my luck, I figured I'd meet a bunch of drunk girls who'd chase me too!"
"You're becoming a real pessimist, Zack."
"Yeah, and whose fault is that?" Zack glared up at the tall man.
Seph shrugged, unconcerned. "Did you fall down the hotel steps?" he asked.
Zack nodded. "And all the girls had grabbed onto me!" he cried. "They were tearing my clothes to shreds! When my boot got pulled off, I leaped up and ran! They all stayed behind to fight over it!"
Sephiroth was silent a long moment as he pondered this. When at last he spoke again, it was with slow precision.
"I feel very sorry for that boot."
Zack stared at him. Seph was giving him an amused smirk, his eyes showing that he was joking. Zack crossed his arms, slumping
into the couch.
"It's not funny," he protested.
"Someday you'll look back on this and laugh," Sephiroth answered. "Maybe even Aerith will, as well."
Zack's mouth dropped open. "You wouldn't tell her about this, would you, Seph?" he gasped.
Sephiroth gave a noncommittal shrug, refusing to say more.
Zack frowned at him. "You're too cruel!" he bemoaned, reaching to poke the other's arm.
Sephiroth watched him. It was probably time to have pity on the poor man . . . for now, anyway. This escapade had certainly bruised Zack's dignity, though by the next day he would likely forget all about it and be back to his normal self. Sephiroth, however, would remember it for years to come.
"You can tell her yourself," he said. "But right now, you should get cleaned up. You never know when someone might come over."
"It's midnight!" Zack cried. "Who'd be coming over now?"
"There is that case we're investigating of the possible Wutaian spy," Sephiroth reminded him. "If the other men stumble upon proof of who it is, they may come here to tell us." A smirk of mischief graced his features again. "Or maybe your lady friends will show up."
Zack gawked for a moment. "You're gonna give me nightmares, Seph!" he whimpered.
"And you'd better hope that's all you get." He gave the other as stern of a look as he could. "Can you imagine how it could look, for a SOLDIER to be tackled by three women at the Red Light hotel? It could be very negative publicity for the SOLDIER organization in general, and for you personally."
"I thought you thought it was funny," Zack frowned.
"That doesn't mean Shinra will think so." Sephiroth smirked again. ". . . Of course, if they don't know, there's no need to tell them."
Zack relaxed into the softness of the couch. "You had me worried there for a minute, Seph," he said in seriousness. "Thought you were going to turn in your best buddy."
Sephiroth looked at him easily. "You really thought so?" he asked.
Zack looked back innocently. Then he broke into a smirk of his own. "Aww, of course not!" he chirped. "You love me too much to do that to me!"
"Even when you get into ludicrous messes like this?"
"Sure!" Zack grinned.
Sephiroth pretended to think about it. "At least," he decided, "you had good intentions."
"That's true!" Zack nodded.
"But I wouldn't recommend trying it again."
"Oh, no way!" Zack declared, shaking his head. "From now on, I'm not going to touch a fangirl with a ten-foot pole! I don't even want to hear that word again, as long as I live!"
Sephiroth leaned back. "Hopefully," he said, "neither of us will have to."
Zack nodded again, gathering enthusiasm. "Hey," he said, leaping off the couch, "I'm going to get cleaned up and changed, and then how about we go down to that all-night ice cream parlor?"
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow. "The ice cream parlor?" he frowned.
"Yeah!" Zack poked him again, grinning. "Come on, I promise it won't make you any less the fierce, proud general if you enjoy a frozen treat now and then!"
Sephiroth was not so sure. But oh well, after the evening Zack had had, he should humor his friend . . . even just once. Especially now that Zack was feeling cheerful again. And so he finally gave a slow nod.
"Great!" Zack chirped. "I'll just be a few minutes."
Sephiroth watched as the brunet tore past, heading for the bathroom. Already he was starting to regret his decision.
It actually was not so bad at the ice cream parlor, for the most part. Zack was his usual happy self, and the dessert was delicious . . . not that Sephiroth would admit it out loud. By the time they both finished, they were feeling quite relaxed.
Until Zack happened to notice some other late night customers entering. He stiffened, staring at them with apprehension. "Seph!" he hissed. "It's them!"
Sephiroth frowned, turning to look as well—and locking eyes with one of the young women. The resulting squeal nearly shattered his eardrums.
Immediately he looked to Zack, who looked back. "Tactical retreat?" Zack asked.
Sephiroth gave a firm nod. "Tactical retreat."
They both would have won a prize, had they been in an official race back to the base.