Last one! It's long, though, so I'm forgiven, right? Also, can't have people O.D.ing on all the cheese and emo, or this place will look like that scene in "Gone With The Wind", you know, with the bodies in the street.

Zack: :stares:

Uh, never mind. Don't own, not for kiddies, let's go watch Zack be angsty. Thank you all for the reviews, so much!

DOOMED TO REPEAT
Part Five of the "Like A Dance" Series

The large man called Warui, solid and broad with the figure of a bodybuilder, had been elected to restrain Zack while the altar was set up. Though one could hardly call it restraint. Zack was so weak that he could barely move, only dangle helplessly from the thick arms that cradled him. This man seemed more professional than the others in carrying out his duties and held him securely without touching him further. It wasn't much of a comfort. Konnan stood nearby as he supervised the work of the others, and now and then ran his fingers down Zack's cheek, talking in a whisper about how he was looking forward to this and laughing softly when Zack tried to squirm away from him.

The ones who answered to Seito and Fuyukai busied themselves with laying out a large, circular blue cloth that seemed to evoke the swelling and falling waves of the sea. It was secured to the grass and dirt with several metal poles set around its circumference, and four brass plates displaying images of Leviathan in both man and snake form were put down, one in each cardinal direction. As the place was made ready, Konnan took a perverse pleasure in telling his intended victim what lay in store for him.

"As the sun ascends the sky, I will invoke Leviathan. His being will inhabit my body and join with you, give you the honor of being the consort of a god. Don't worry, he always makes it pleasant. See that white cloth they are laying out? With that I'll catch your virgin blood, your offering to the lord of Wutai, and we will bury it by the sea for him to claim. But first we will kill you, painlessly, and your soul will be joined to Leviathan for all time, easing his loneliness, bringing him pleasure. That's not a bad fate, is it, to the be the mate of a god?"

It hurt to say, it hurt to think of, but Zack saw a chance and he took it. "Not...a virgin."

Warui looked questioningly at Konnan, who seemed startled for a moment before he recovered his self-assurance and spoke. "Of course you are, lying will do you no good. You're a child."

"Not in Midgar," Zack insisted, with difficulty. "That's...where I'm from. Not a child. Not a virgin."

Konnan stepped around to face them and, without warning, thrust his hand between Zack's legs. Warui held him tighter as a precaution, but it was hardly necessary. Zack could only whimper and squirm uselessly as Konnan massaged gently and smiled down at him in triumph.

"Who but an untouched would react to pleasure with fear? You are a virgin. Leviathan has told me so. He wants you and he will have you, so you should just accept it."

"He does come from a culture unlike ours," Warui said gruffly. "And as you say, he is lovely. It's not inconceivable that someone got to him before we did. Maybe there's another reason he's afraid to be touched."

Konnan shot him a withering glare, and Warui, though bigger and stronger, recoiled. "To doubt my word is to doubt Leviathan's. Be very careful, brother."

"Of course. I apologize, I spoke without thought."

"We're ready!" Seito called.

Warui carried Zack to the center of the large cloth and carefully laid him down. Konnan stood just outside the altar's perimeter in a worshipful stance and closed his eyes to softly pray. He lifted his arms after a few moments and remained in that position, as though he were drawing something into himself from above. Inside Zack, panic and shock were fighting each other, wobbling back and forth like plates on a scale struggling for abalnce. If he couldn't get away or stop this he would prefer the numbness, like the kind that had followed him from Lazard's apartment to his own and been much less painful than the sobbing and vomiting that came after.

But the fear refused to be subdued, now. Rape was no longer just an ugly word to Zack, a horrifying thing that happened to people he didn't know far away. Rape was unfamiliar hands probing, mouths that opened on his skin and swallowed pieces of his soul, pain in places so deep that he had never known they could hurt or break. It felt like a germ Genesis had somehow implanted. Was it something everyone could see? Something that told them this was okay, that he was already infected by this sickness, so there was no reason others should not have him the same way, nothing left in him that deserved to be honored and respected?

But Angeal thinks there is. Angeal loves me, I can't be nothing if Angeal loves me...

Thinking of Angeal's warmth and safety only pushed the rising numbness down and let a choking sadness fill the space it left. Zack cried with such heartache that Fuyukai, who was stripping him, began to do so more slowly and with exaggerated gentleness, thinking that would help. The one whose name Zack hadn't heard knelt behind his head and gently stroked his hair and wet cheeks. Seito, who was arranging small bowls of sea water around the clearing, kept looking over with the perturbed, slightly guilty expression they were all three wearing. They had all been through this plenty of times before, often with even younger victims, and this one bothered them more than they thought he should.

Maybe it was because the others, even the ones they used the yowai thorns on, fought and cursed and threatened and bribed until their strength was spent. This one, though upset, seemed to have accepted defeat, and still would not lay still and continued to quietly panic. Maybe it was because these three were, in their misguided way, genuinely devoted in their hearts to Leviathan, and it wounded them to see someone wearing the sacred stone and with eyes the exact same color whimpering like a wounded animal.

Or it could have been Zack's looks altogether. The victims were chosen for beauty but also accessibility, and they'd never had one as pretty as this, or one that it seemed such a waste of youth and purity to destroy. None of them questioned, as Warui had, whether the boy was definitely a virgin. He was not eighteen yet, he seemed so innocent, and coupled with their belief in and fear of Konnan, that was enough to convince them.

"Hey, ssh," the nameless one said uncertainly. "It'll only hurt a little bit, and then you'll live forever as the consort of Leviathan. He's a kind god, he'll take better care of you than any mortal could."

The boy shook his head, unable to escape the hands that were cupping it, and softly wept what sounded to them like a name. "Angeal..."

"Your loved ones will be with you again someday," Fuyukai reassured, "Leviathan will make sure of that. Right, Zankoku?"

"Absolutely. You'll be fine until then, happy. Ssh, he'll be here soon, and you'll see, everything will be all right."

"I am here."

It was Konnan's voice, only deeper and more solemn than usual. The other men bowed their heads, and all but Zankoku quickly scrambled off the altar and stood in a semi-circle facing the figure that approached its victim. Konnan looked no different, except that he was standing in a rigidly straight posture that was meant to indicate dignity, and he had put on a deep blue robe that covered his sides and back and swept the ground like an incoming tide, leaving his front naked. He approached Zack with a benevolent smile, and straddled the shaking boy who was nude save for the blue stone he wore. Konnan fingered it with a satisfied nod.

"You have done well, my children. You have brought me my chosen one at last. You will be greatly rewarded, and you..." He waved Zankoku's hand away to caress a wet cheek. "You will be mine forever. When the planet breathes its last and the stars fall into the void, I will hold you and love you still."

His hand descended Zack's body and began to stroke him. The boy cried out in terror and refusal, and Konnan made a hushing sound.

"All the regrets you carry, all the unfulfilled dreams, all the sadness. I will wipe it all away. Death is oblivion. Eternal life with me will be paradise."

Beneath his feigned confidence, Konnan was growing nervous. Why wasn't the boy getting hard as the others had? But there was a foolproof way. He put out his hand, and with a bow of the head Zankoku offered his god the open jar of oil. It was scented to smell like the sea, to remind Leviathan of his home, and earlier Zack's wrists and ankles had been lightly anointed with it as a method of binding.

Now Konnan swirled his fingers in it and put the boy's legs over his shoulders to expose him. They almost always reacted with fear and discomfort and embarrassment while being prepared, but this one seemed to be having some sort of panic attack. His smooth white face went paler and ghostly, his mouth fell open and he began to exhale rapidly and with a noise that was like a subdued scream. The sound grew longer and longer and was accompanied by violent shaking as Konnan found his target and massaged it, but he got what he wanted. The flaccid organ in his other hand began to harden and grow.

"For you I have borne millennia of loneliness. For you I crawled out of the sea that's hidden me from the scorn of man."

Zack's eyes rolled back but he blinked and kept them open, and between the moans he couldn't repress he seemed to be trying to speak. "Nnn...Leviathan..." was all Konnan caught, and he leaned down to put his ear to the boy's lips.

"What's that, my precious? You have something to tell me?"

"Not Leviathan," the boy was saying, with the defiance drugged out of his body alive in his weak voice. "You're not...Leviathan."

"Maybe not," Konnan whispered, "but he speaks to me. I believe that and so do they. Maybe he will tell me that I should keep you instead of killing you. But first..."

The man lubricated himself with the oil and pushed the victim's legs to his chest. It was important that he retain as much of this god-like dignity as possible during the act, so he took slow, deep breaths as he lined himself up, savoring the anticipation of the wonderful heat he was about to feel. He would wait until he could resist no longer...a few more moments...and...

Something like a human whirlwind was in the clearing and upon them before anyone knew what was happening. The blurry figure of a large man wielding a huge sword circled the altar, swinging ferociously and leaving each observer a bloody and mangled mess on the ground. Konnan thought quickly, as was typical of him, and only of himself, which was also typical. By the time the mysterious rescuer had killed all his comrades and stood facing him with a feral rage in his eyes, Konnan was holding Zack in front of him and had a sharp ritual knife against his throat.

"Release him, or you will suffer more than you can imagine," the intimidating intruder snarled.

Konnan was terrified of this man, who looked like he could kill with one finger, but he saw fear in the glowing eyes as well, and that reassured him. "I don't think you'll risk attacking me while I have the boy. Come any closer and I'll slit his throat. If you back off and let us both leave safely, I'll let him go unharmed."

Nearly shaking with fury, Angeal sheathed his Buster Sword and put his hands up. "Just let him go. Do it now and I'll allow you to escape with your life. I don't care about you, I only want him."

"Leviathan," Zack murmured, his head lolling back in a drugged daze.

"See?" Konnan said madly, desperately. "He wants me! He knows! I speak for the god!"

"Do you?" a watery, rumbling voice intoned, coming from nowhere and yet booming all around them. It was inhuman, powerful, and it filled those who heard it with fear, except for Zack, who smiled as though he recognized it. "Konnan of Anzen, son of Wutai, you dishonor me by destroying in my name. Release the boy or be consigned to the hell of the deepest depths for all eternity!"

Eyes bulging, whimpering pleas like a man broken of his sanity, Konnan let Zack fall out of his arms and scambled backward across the blue cloth, cowering in fear of what he couldn't see. Angeal lifted Zack and held him close with one arm, and with the other swung his sword and severed Konnan's head with one stroke. The Buster fell from his hand, forgotten, and he was kneeling on the rumpled cloth, holding Zack tightly, rocking him and kissing him and telling him it was all right now, and wondering in a panic why Zack wasn't speaking or hugging him back.

"Puppy." The pale face looked at him blankly, he had to shake it before the eyes began to see him with any sign of recognition. "Puppy!"

Zack's mouth worked but made no sound. The blue eyes that had always been so lively and fascinating were dulled, the only brightness in them that of pain. Zack's hands patted him awkwardly, but in confusion, like he didn't know what was happening. Like the real Zack had finally broken under this strain.

"Zack, come back to me. Don't leave me." More confusion, more hurt, maybe because the boy had never seen Angeal cry, much less sob. "I love you, I'm so sorry, please don't be gone..."

Zack mouthed something that looked like "Leviathan". He kept doing it, clumsily wrapping one hand around the stone and reaching the other upward. The sky his fingers sought was changing rapidly. The stormclouds gathered so fast that the darkness was like the shadow of a great beast falling over them. As the first drops hit them, Angeal adjusted his hold on Zack and was about to get him somewhere dry, but the boy smiled at the rain. He closed his eyes, opened his mouth and breathed in, spreading his arms to let it fall over him. Rain. Water. The healing element, Angeal remembered, could it be...? An agonizing few seconds passed, and the eyes opened to look at him, filled with tears but life as well.

"Angeal."

Zack hugged him back this time, clung to him with relief and need, sought his mouth and kissed him without restraint. The cool rain trickled over his skin and made it slippery to the touch, but Angeal held him easily, clasping Zack to his own body heat as tightly as he could. There was no fear for now, no hesitation, no whispers of "Bad". Zack was making it clear that he wanted more than safety, and Angeal's fervent kisses answered that it was his already.

Neither noticed Taikan's arrival until he was right in front of them, looking relieved and even a bit amused as he shrugged off his cloak and offered it. Angeal took it gratefully and wrapped it around Zack, but couldn't stop himself from snapping "What took you so long?"

"Well, the rain is all Leviathan, but that voice was tricky to do. Anyway, my friend, I could ask you the same question," the elder said with a smile.

zazazaz

Angeal got Zack home as quickly as he could, protectively holding him away from the concerned eyes of the villagers. Zack quietly insisted that he wasn't hurt, but out of kindness to his teacher's worry he drank a Potion anyway. Angeal had thought he would be reluctant to be touched for a while, but as they stood together in the shower and he gently washed the morning's horrors from the boy's body, Zack clung to him and pressed his lips to Angeal's chest and neck. He thrust urgently, having returned to hardness, and came in Angeal's waiting hand with a soft moan.

"Good?" the commander asked as the water cleaned the semen away.

"Good," Zack murmured. "Always good with you. Everything. Please..."

"I'm yours, Puppy, if you're certain that's what you want."

"Always been sure." Zack snuggled closer and twined his fingers into Angeal's wet hair. "Always been yours."

Taikan had identified the drug that the boy had been given and assured them that it would flush out of his system on its own, and that sleep would speed it along. Zack sighed with contentment as he was gently dried off and dressed, and didn't argue when Angeal put a cup of Taikan's special tea to his lips. They curled up together on Angeal's bed (their bed now, as all belonging to either of them would henceforth be) and Zack was petted and kissed softly until he fell into a peaceful sleep. One arm was latched securely around Angeal, and the other hand clasped the blue stone he still refused to take off. The sky outside was flawless blue, with no sign that the earlier rain had ever been.

zazazaz

Much as he wanted to keep his eyes on his puppy every moment, Angeal was feeling too vigilant after so much panic to sleep or rest. After a while he carefully left the bed and paced the house, wondering how he would handle everything that was to come. Zack was his now, that was not negotiable. ShinRa would probably not even try to interfere, though Zack's age when they were first acquainted and the previous nature of their relationship would likely raise questions. Lazard could make trouble if he wanted to, that was a serious concern.

Then the message from Sephiroth came, and Angeal resolved furiously that there would be no time for Lazard or Genesis to do anything more at all. Zack would have to be told, though it would hurt him as it hurt Angeal. He had been foolish, maybe, not to kill them immediately in spite of the risks and Zack's overly-soft heart, to simply take Zack away and hide him from the problem. Those who don't learn their lessons are doomed to repeat them, the old adage went, but Angeal pushed it angrily away. Rape was a cruelty, it taught nothing. If anything, the lesson was that people don't really change. Even if, beneath the hatred and betrayal, you hope they will.

Zack must have been awake or nearly so. His eyes slowly blinked open to look into Angeal's when a hand caressed his face, and when he weakly tried to sit up, strong arms enfolded him and he was brought to a warm, broad chest.

"Are you sure you're not hurt?"

"Uh-huh." Dullness had crept back into the boy's voice. "Angeal?"

"Yeah, Puppy?"

"Nowhere is safe, is it?"

The arms tightened, lips pressed reassurance into his hair and skin. "I'm going to make it safe, as I should've done in the first place. I promise, I'll make it safe, once and for all."

"We're going home, aren't we?"

"Yeah, Pup. We're going home." I can't keep this from him, Angeal knew, but still, right up to this moment, he wondered if he could bear to tell him. "I got a message from Sephiroth while you were asleep."

"Someone...else?"

"He's going to be all right, and so are you. It will never happen again."

Zack was shaking again, his breath beginning to heave. Angeal saw that the panic was coming upon him fast and quickly put his fingers to the usual pressure point, trying to stop it before it erupted into full-blown hysteria. Zack tried to squirm away, not wanting to be calm and comforted in the face of this horrible new knowledge, and Angeal had to hold him still, pressing kisses into his hair that the boy didn't think he deserved either but couldn't bring himself to protest.

"Who? Who?"

"No one we know. A trooper in the army."

"How old?"

"Puppy, he'll be taken care of, it's all right - "

"How old?"

Angeal sighed heavily, painfully. The answer made the crime more unforgivable, if anything could. "Fourteen."

The wail that followed had more anger in it than any other Angeal had heard during their time in Wutai, and he tensed, remembering the last time Zack had allowed himself to express anger and the one he had turned it on. He couldn't, never would, forget that blank expression and the bloody kitchen floor. He would restrain Zack if he had to, or better yet, maybe he could get him to vent it on Angeal himself. This feeling had to come out, somehow...

Zack's hands did claw at Angeal's shoulders, but only to get a better grip on him, to try to push them closer together than physics would allow. The boy was shaking his head, and Angeal cupped the back of it and the soft mussed hair, not to stop him but only to let his presence be felt. It was coming, he could feel Zack's heart racing against his own, and the heat of his skin.

"I HATE THEM! I HATE THEM I HATE THEM HOW COULD THEY, HOW COULD ANYONE - "

Sobs were beginning to replace the shouted words. Angeal held on to Zack and waited, knowing that some of the poison was draining out at last.

"I TRUSTED HIM! I BEGGED THEM TO STOP, AND HE LAUGHED! I...I didn't..."

"I know, Zack. I know."

"I didn't want...I swear..."

"I know, Puppy." Angeal's hand worked its way slowly down to the nape of Zack's neck and stroked the warm skin. "You did the only thing you could. You survived."

A weak laugh came, an unexpected but welcome sound. "You sure about that?"

"Yes. If you hadn't, I wouldn't be here either."

"Angeal. You're not just doing this because I want it, are you?"

The 1st drew back a little to let Zack see the sincerity in his eyes. "I fought this battle for a long time, and I would've kept fighting it forever rather than risk losing you. Your feelings for me just mean that I can surrender at last. But, Pup, it's important you understand this - I never expected this from you. I didn't choose you or fall in love with you for that."

"I know," Zack assured him. "I didn't believe Genesis as much as I...wanted to believe that you could love me. The way I love you, I mean."

"I love you. Never doubt that. And nothing will ever change it."

Zack sought Angeal's lips slowly, not because he was hesitant but to savor the feeling of being drawn irresistably into the soft kiss that followed. A hand stroked his cheek as their mouths opened, gently brushing the tears away. When they broke apart at last, the boy buried his face in Angeal's neck, nuzzling what was fast becoming one of his favorite spots. Angeal's comforting fingers were everywhere, combing through his hair and massaging his back and running up and down his hip, and his lips teased a trail of kisses from jaw to shoulder and back again.

"What if they separate us?" An old fear, nearly a primal one, because there had never been such a thing as alone since Angeal came into his life, and he was afraid of losing that, losing him, more than anything.

"I will never let anyone take you from me."

Angeal said this with such simple conviction that Zack nodded, satisfied. Angeal had spoken the truth, though he knew it might be a tricky thing to pull off. Though Zack seemed unaware of it (as he was so charmingly oblivious about his sweetness and beauty), he was a prized ShinRa asset, expected to become a legend. That could work in their favor, in that ShinRa would be eager to keep him happy and give him anything he wanted, or they could panic at the thought of their pet prodigy being corrupted by his teacher. The former was far more likely, but with a double-murder factored into the equation...

"Just promise me something?" Zack whispered.

"What, Puppy?"

"If you have to leave SOLDIER, you'll take me with you."

"That won't happen. But I promise."

Seph, I hope you come up with a good plan.

zazazaz

The chopper brought them to a landing pad in the city itself, not directly at ShinRa. Angeal was determined that they should arrive home as inconspicuously as possible, so they waited until the late night to quietly walk the familiar hallways that led to Angeal's apartment. Their apartment, now.

Their parting gift from Taikan (who had been moved to tears by the warm goodbye hug Zack had given him) was a large supply of the tea that induced sleep. When Angeal brought a large, steaming mug of it to the bedroom, Zack knew why, and looked at him with anxiety, pleading for something he himself could not have named.

"I know you hardly slept last night, Pup. And I don't want you making yourself sick with worry. Get some rest, and I'll wake you when it's over."

Zack's chin quivered. He could not ever remember being so afraid for his invincible mentor. "Promise?"

"I promise. And you know I'll be careful. You'll see when you wake up. I'll be fine."

"You better be. 'Cause if you're not, I can't be either."

Zack tried to fight the drowsiness off as long as he could, but he was too tired, the herbs too potent, the arms that cradled him too comfortable. At last, Angeal laid him down on the bed and tucked a blanket around him, whispering that he'd be back soon. Angeal hadn't heard Sephiroth enter the apartment, but wasn't surprised to find him standing like a statue in the living room. The general offered a faint smile - the Sephiroth equivalent of a bear hug - and it was a jarring contrast to the anger lighting up his eyes.

"Not going to dissuade me this time?"

"No."

"How is the boy?"

Green and silver flared together, like mercury left poisoned. Ah, that was the source of this subdued rage.

"He will be taken care of." Something in his voice seemed to imply that Sephiroth himself might be involved in this care, but he continued speaking before Angeal could do more than register that. "And Fair?"

"Better. He'll feel safe, I think, when this is over. Please tell me you have a good idea."

With no verbal answer or change of expression, Sephiroth lifted his famous sword off its magnet sheath and held it out. Angeal stared at him with what would have been to anyone else a highly amusing look of complete shock. Masamune was more sacred to Sephiroth than even the Buster was to Angeal. No one touched it but Sephiroth, save those who died on its blade. Even as his closest friend, Angeal had never been allowed to lay a finger on it.

"Seph..."

"It kills in a very distinct way. You are not used to it, but I have no doubt you'll find a way to compensate for that."

"Seph."

"If you go and return without being seen, they will have no choice but to assume it was me."

Impeccably logical, as always. There was, as they both knew, really nothing short of outright rebellion that could get Sephiroth in any genuine trouble with ShinRa, he was just too valuable to them. Hojo would no doubt hastily come up with some medical explanation, the president would probably put on a stern face and remind the general that such actions were not to be tolerated, and Sephiroth would make a short, emotionless apology. It would all be forgotten after the next battle won or the next wave of SOLDIER hopefuls with stars in their eyes.

"This could lead to more time in the lab. Tests and so on."

"Then I'm sure you'll find a way to sneak in and mount a heroic rescue, as always," Sephiroth said dryly. "I can handle Hojo. Go. I will wait for you here in case Fair wakes up and tries to follow his own heroic impulses."

zazazaz

Angeal had a few instances of good fortune on his side, the first being that the building's air ducts were laid out in a pattern that was easy to follow and keep track of. The second was that one shaft led to directly outside of Lazard's apartment, and the third that the override code Angeal knew worked even on this carefully-secured residence. Sephiroth had told him that he hadn't been able to keep it from Lazard and Genesis that Angeal and Zack were returning, and to be cautious in case they were prepared for him.

Lazard hadn't prepared so much as surrendered and escaped in one blow, the strongest he had ever struck in all his cowardly life. Some or many explanations would be postulated for the cooling body on the bed and the discharged gun on the floor - stress, pressures of work, a lonely life truly shared with no one, rumors of an unacknowledged blood connection between the executive director and the president. The scribbled note left on the nightstand, though, made the reason clear. 'I'm sorry.' Angeal took the note and folded it into his pocket, accepting it but not the apology.

Genesis's place was fairly isolated, but to be safe, Angeal waited until he was certain no sounds of nearby movement could be heard before silently slipping out of the air duct and stealthily hurrying to the door. He was about to try the override code on the keypad lock when his hand on the doorknob moved easily, and a soft click informed him that the door had been left unsecured. He pushed it open and stepped inside, senses on full alert.

Years earlier, when Angeal had been in the habit of stopping by for wine and conversation, he had laughingly told Genesis that his apartment looked like a cross between a feminine product commercial and a harem. These rooms full of luxurious fabrics and pieces of art and billowing curtains were hilariously unlike Angeal's taste for simplicity and Sephiroth's preference for things to be sleek and black. At some point after his last visit, Genesis had redone the place almost entirely in white, which made Angeal even more angry, though he wasn't sure exactly why. He moved slowly, through the dimness lit only by the blue-screen light of large TVs that were mysteriously placed all over. It was like some insane exhibition of abstract art.

Angeal was about to call out, wanting to get this done before his emotions robbed him of his focus, when something came over all the screens at once. Instinctively he looked, and though he knew it might be a diversion, he froze in horror at what the TVs showed him. From different angles, both close-up and at a distance, his puppy, handcuffed to an unfamiliar bed, sobbing as Genesis leaned over him.

"Do you let Angeal see you like this? Does he protect you for your own sake or for his own possessiveness?"

"You're sick! Don't talk about Angeal!"

The nightmarish images were edited together so that the actions displayed flickered back and forth from one to the other, like a repressed memory surfacing in flashes. Genesis was forcing his fingers into Zack harshly, then gently, then thrusting into him and groaning with satisfaction as the boy tried to fight. Lazard was comforting, kissing, then taking his own turn with the body shocked into submission. Zack's arms were cuffed to the headboard, then around Genesis's neck and visibly shaking. Genesis spoke in his own voice, and in the likeness of his childhood friend's.

"But you would give this to him if he asked, wouldn't you?"

"No!"

"Everyone wants to fuck you, little puppy. Angeal's no different. Remember that the next time he corrects your fighting stance or pins you. Remember that he'd rather be touching you as I am now."

"Shut...up..."

"Can you feel him, little puppy? Is that better?"

"Yes, let me in, Puppy. It's time for your lesson, time to learn your proper place."

"No!"

"Ssh, it's all right, we'll make it good."

"You're mine, no matter what happens now, you'll always remember you're mine. Who do you need, Puppy?"

"Angeal, please - "

"Good boy."

The heat of a rage he had not thought possible spread through Angeal and allowed him to move again. With a terrifying bellow, he picked up the nearest TV and hurled it to the floor, where it crashed loudly and exploded into a million useless fragments. The sound on the other TVs went off, though the video continued, and a silky voice came from somewhere, chuckling with amusement.

"You're missing the best part, Angeal. When I took him the second time, and the life left those pretty eyes as I filled him. I would know. He kept them open the whole time, and let me in so nicely - "

"GENESIS! Come out and fight me! What kind of fucking coward are you, raping kids who can't fight back?!"

"This is very unlike you, old friend. I was right, wasn't I? You want him. Have you sampled yet that sweet body I broke in for you? Have you seen for yourself how beautiful he is when he cries?"

Angeal should have stayed calm and used his senses to locate his target, but his rage made that impossible. Instead he tore almost blindly through the apartment, smashing everything he touched, and shouting words that most people thought Commander Hewley didn't even know. Somehow, Genesis's calm, taunting voice rose above it.

"Have you felt how tight your puppy is? I was gentle, and he still bled, and writhed as he milked my cock with his sweet little ass. He cried for you, Angeal, whimpered just like a baby puppy, but I was the one who fucked him. It was me he clenched around when he came, and he loved it. Your puppy moaned like a whore."

The last room, and as Angeal stepped through the doorway, Genesis appeared against the opposite wall. He managed to conceal his surprise at the weapon Angeal held as he brandished his own, but not fast enough.

"Sephiroth too, hmm? The jealous friends join forces to betray the true hero."

Angeal didn't care to riddle that out, didn't want explanations that would never be satisfactory, didn't want anything but Genesis dying slowly at his feet. But over twenty years of history, most of it as friends, out of all the hurt and confusion about how it could have fucking turned out like this, came a question that raced past the fury and murderous intent and burst out of Angeal's throat. One word to sum up a loss and a betrayal that infinite speech and time would not be able to answer.

"Why?"

"Why?" Genesis repeated, his eyes enraged and everything else about him tranquil. "Because you loved something pure, and now it will never be pure again. Because you cared for that boy more than your oldest friend. Because Sephiroth is mine, and you're mine, and now the puppy is too. No matter what you do now, he will never forget who really had him first."

As calm as Genesis seemed, he was ready when Angeal flew at him. There had never been one of them who was the acknowledged better. Sephiroth was the unrivaled best, and his two friends were the next best, pretty evenly matched when all things were considered. Angeal was bigger and stronger, Genesis faster and more flexible. Angeal's steadiness of nerves won out over the other's tendency to fly into a rage more often than not, but not by much. This time, Angeal was using an unfamiliar weapon, its quality and lightness not quite compensating for its strangeness, and he was now the one out of control, at the same disadvantage he used to caution Genesis about.

With all this in the back of his mind, Angeal wasn't quite sure how he was winning. Maybe he had frightened Genesis at last, maybe Genesis was disheartened to know that however this ended, he would still face punishment, from Sephiroth if not Angeal. Maybe it was meant to be. The confidence on Genesis's face when he was disarmed was startling, but explained nothing.

"Still mine, all of you. Do it if you're going to, Angeal. The Goddess wills. 'Nothing shall forestall my return - '"

Masamune thrust, steadier than the hand wielding it had thought itself capable of. Genesis's eyes showed a faint surprise at last as his heart was pierced, at either the presumption of death or the mercy of his former best friend in ending it quickly. They didn't close until Genesis had slumped to the floor and lay still, and when they did, they seemed to do so in relief.

Angeal stared emotionlessly at Genesis, his first sparring partner, the closest thing he had to a brother, the one he had gazed at the stars with as children and tried to read in them their fates. Intertwined, heroic, together always. That was how it was supposed to be. Angeal let himself grieve for what might have been, even if he couldn't mourn Genesis himself, and looked at the sleek blade in his hand.

Clean. Masamune absorbed blood, or wouldn't accept the stains of it, or something. Even Sephiroth wasn't sure which, and the question had never seemed important. It was merely part of his legend, the sword that could not be sullied by pain or death. Angeal had never before this moment envied a weapon of war for its purity.

zazazaz

He found Sephiroth waiting in the apartment's main room, looking out the wide window at the early morning sky and the vast grounds that had always been his home. As Angeal approached, he remembered Taikan's fond way of speaking about Sephiroth, and the word he'd used. Wounded. All warriors carry some sort of hidden pain. Maybe Sephiroth's was the reason Angeal passed the sword back with a gentle hand and a look of sympathy. Maybe it was only because Genesis had been his friend too.

Sephiroth's expression remained a stubborn blank as he quickly looked Masamune over, nodded and sheathed it. Then he waited for Angeal to speak, sensing that words were needed and tilting his head curiously.

"I'm sorry, Seph. But, you understand."

"I would have done it myself, had you not had more right. And if I did not think you needed this. They hurt more than their victims, Angeal."

"Lazard shot himself. So, they'll only ask you about Genesis."

"I should go put on my crazy expression," the general said with a faint smile. "And perhaps give Dr. Hojo some warning. Smash something in the lab, for example."

"Which I'm sure you aren't constantly wanting to do anyway," Angeal joked weakly. "Seph, sorry, but I'm gonna hug you."

"The puppy is rubbing off on you," Sephiroth said in a tone of displeasure, but he allowed Angeal's arms to clasp him loosely, even let his chin rest a moment on Angeal's shoulder. Neither were the type to hug at all and hadn't done this with each other in years, but even Sephiroth seemed to understand the impulse, murmuring "We still have each other."

"Yeah." Angeal caught himself squeezing his old friend and stepped back to recover his dignity. "Thank you."

"I should go, and you should reassure your student. Sometime soon you must give me the latest news of Anzen."

"Zack and I would like to go back sometime. You should go with us. The village elder seems to miss you."

"Taikan?" A smile graced Sephiroth's perfect face. "I would...not be averse to seeing him again. He was of help to your student, I'm guessing."

The words flew to Angeal's lips, the need to be honest sudden and unstoppable. "Zack isn't just my student."

Sephiroth looked confused for a moment, but he wasn't that oblivious, and he understood quickly. Now his expression flooded with concern.

"Angeal, do you really think that's wise?"

"I don't know if it's wise or idiotic. It just is."

Sephiroth exhaled slowly. "Keep it quiet until the scandal of the deaths blows over. Once I'm back in the president's good graces, I will speak in support of this to he and the vice-president."

"You anticipate trouble?"

"They've spoken to me of Fair, Angeal. They expect that, with the proper care and guidance, he will become like us. That's why they gave him to you. And they allowed our best 3rd to disappear for seventeen months into the Wutaian wilderness only because I told them he would have a breakdown if they didn't. I will fight for you, Angeal, always. But be warned. You are his teacher and eight years his senior, and you had him alone and vulnerable a long time. They may try to reassign him."

Sephiroth headed for the door, and nearly reached it. Angeal, with a feeling like his lungs were turning to stone, called to him in such a way that it became clear he was addressing not his friend but his superior, SOLDIER's highest-ranking and most influential officer.

"General."

Sephiroth turned, and with his unmatchable reflexes easily caught the vid-disk tossed to him.

"If they, and you, need to see the hell that kid went through to be convinced that he deserves every bit of happiness he can get, go right ahead. I don't want to take him away from SOLDIER, which is what I promised to do if we're separated, and I don't want to cause any trouble. But there will be no investigation, no consequences, not a word spoken that could possibly upset him. What happened to Zack will not be made public. He will not be forced to choose between me and SOLDIER. And if they try to take him from me, I will bring this company crashing down on their heads."

Sephiroth gave him another faint smile. "Understood, Commander."

zazazaz

Zack awoke to the feel of fingers on his cheek and the whisper of his nickname, and a flood of relief to see Angeal and realize what that must mean. He sat up and flew at him so fast that they both nearly fell off the bed, and Angeal's warm arms and soft laughter were enfolding him.

"You're okay? You're here and you're okay?"

"I'm fine. Everything will be all right now. They're dead, no one will know it was me. And no one will separate us."

Now Zack did push Angeal over and crawled to lay on top of him. Angeal held the boy's hips to keep him balanced and smiled between the slow kisses Zack pressed into his lips. After a few minutes, Zack let his head rest on Angeal's shoulder and ran his fingers up and down the broad arms that were around him.

"Angeal?"

"Yeah, Puppy?"

"It's...safe now, right?"

"Yes." Angeal understood. "This isn't like Curing a sword-wound, Pup. I don't expect you to be automatically okay. You still need time."

"I need you."

"You can have all you want of both," the commander said with a soft laugh. "But slowly."

"You're gonna make me wait until it drives me insane, aren't you?"

"I wouldn't be so cruel to my puppy. I just don't want you to rush yourself."

"Angeal." Zack rested his chin on Angeal's chest, his pale eyes looking seriously over the short distance between their faces. "Were they...was he sorry at all?"

"Genesis?" He said the name carefully, pleased that Zack didn't flinch. He ran one hand up and down the young man's back, and with the other pet his hair, wondering who was comforting who here. "No, Pup. He showed no remorse. Don't you apologize, none of this was your fault."

"I know, but he was your friend."

"The Genesis I knew and cared for was dead already. He would not have hurt you."

"Did he say why?" Zack asked softly, instinctively moving closer and laying his head back on Angeal's shoulder. "I guess it doesn't matter. A reason won't change anything."

"Why didn't you ask about Lazard?" Angeal asked, curious.

"I know he felt bad a little, when it was over. In a way...it was worse with him, because it hurt less, but at the end, he looked...I don't know. Like he would have explained to me why he did it if he himself knew. Just for a moment." Zack laughed briefly, a bitter sound. "When I thought it was only me they did that to, I even felt sorry for him. Stupid, huh?"

"No. You're just too good for ShinRa. And SOLDIER." Angeal turned his head to bring their faces close together. "And me."

"Don't say that." Zack's voice was breathy, sounding aroused even when he tried to scold. "I love you."

As their lips met, Zack reached down to unzip his pants and pushed them down, managing with some cooperative squirming to do the same to Angeal's. The pressure of their erections against each other was teasing but wonderful, enough to give a pleasure that didn't feel rushed. Angeal slid his hand beneath Zack's T-shirt to caress his back. When he tried to move it between them, Zack grabbed his wrist to keep it still, then slowly made it descend.

Angeal couldn't stifle a quiet moan as he cupped the bare skin of those firm, round cheeks for the first time. Soft as everywhere else, toned, and sensitive if Zack's shivers were anything to go by. He caressed gently, followed the curve of each with his palm, and the young body pushed upward into the touch.

"What is it, Puppy?" Angeal was amazed to find his voice working. "Tell me what you want."

"Mmm...you. Inside. Please?"

"Pup..."

"Not...that, just...you." Zack meaningfully touched his fingers. "Just want to feel you."

Angeal understood, as he usually did, smling both at the request and Zack's shyness. It wasn't hesitation, or at least not the kind that came from the memory of trauma. The boy was moving restlessly, from need, not from fear.

"Look at me, Zack."

He did, blue eyes hazy over a playful and seductive pout. "I'm okay. I know it's you and I'm okay. I'll tell you if I want to stop. I'm not asking for this because I just want someone who's not them. I know I don't have to do this and I know you love me. There, there's nothing left for you to say."

Angeal smiled and traced Zack's lips with his fingers. "Look at me while I do it. I want to watch your eyes, okay?"

They brightened and widened a little, alive with that winter-sky blue. The sweet mouth grinned widely, allowing Angeal to slip three fingers inside.

"Get them wet."

Excited and eager to make that obvious, Zack obeyed with enthusiasm, taking them in as deeply as Angeal would allow. His tongue laved them, top and bottom, and wiggled between to wet the sides of each as well. His eyes closed for this part and the commander didn't mind, raptly listening to the boy's satisfied humming and watching his pink lips grow damp as the fingers slipped in and out. They were well-coated with saliva as Angeal removed them and brought them to the cleft between the sculpted cheeks.

Zack was calm as the first slowly breached the ring of tight muscle. The tip gently rocked in and out a few times before sliding deeper, wet skin delving into a world of wet heat. The boy's lips parted soundlessly at the exact moment Angeal let out a low groan. The slick little invader was meeting no resistance it couldn't handle. Breaching Zack was like dipping into some warm, exquisite oil that enveloped all it touched. Angeal felt his target close by, pulsing with anticipation like a tiny heartbeat, and swiped at it.

"Oh!" Zack's eyes fluttered but dutifully remained open, and his grip on his mentor's shoulders tightened. "Oh Gaia, yes, that, that..."

"You like that?"

"More, more - "

"Okay, Puppy. Relax, I'll give you more."

Zack was thrusting upward again, trying to re-establish the stimulation. Angeal waited for him to calm a little, poising two fingers at the entance, and let them slide in. They didn't linger but went directly to the prostate and began to lightly massage it.

"Angeal Angeal Angeal..."

Zack was being faintly jostled by the fingers pushing into him and the heaving of his chest as he panted. The sapphire jewels of his eyes were glowing, even after the recent absence of their usual mako, and his lips were moving even when he wasn't speaking the name as a plea and a tribute. Angeal cupped the lovely face with his free hand and Zack turned into it, kissing and gasping into the palm. Angeal was mesmerized. He had never seen or felt anything so erotic.

Three fingers now, a tight fit, but there was no complaint in the soft mewling noises that Zack made. The lids were beginning to droop over his eyes, making him look sleepy, but obedient as ever, he kept them open. He was rhythmically moving his hips to meet the fingers as they - gently, always gently - thrust against their target.

"Okay, baby?" Angeal whispered. "You all right?"

"Feels...so..." Zack couldn't hold a brilliant smile for more than a second, but Angeal saw it, and the passage he was exploring never once tensed enough to push him out. "Never thought...I could feel..."

"Gaia, you feel so good, Pup."

"Angeal, I...can't...gonna..." His squirming made it clear. They were both hard as rocks, and even the limited movement was rubbing them together.

"Look at me, Puppy. That's it. You want to come with me?"

"Fuck, Gaia, harder first, please," Zack babbled, trying to hold off.

"Just a little." A bit deeper, faster, more forceful, and the innocent face went slack, the eyes began to roll. "Look at me."

Somehow Zack did it, got his focus on Angeal as one hand carefully speared him and the other grasped his hip. His mouth worked uselessly, like a fish trying to breathe out of the water, but he smiled again, teetering on an ecstatic ledge as Angeal gazed at him with unconditional adoration. Safety had always been there in those affectionate brown eyes, and they enveloped him, would hold him forever. Was Angeal going to ask if he was okay? Surely he could see the perfection of this, the certainty his puppy was beaming back at him?

"I love you," Angeal said simply, and that broke the floodgates. Everything inside tightened suddenly, not painfully, but enough to squeeze the prostate like a fist. The hand on Zack's hip guided him down, thrust them together, and they were shouting and spilling against each other, two tributaries of one white river shooting simultaneously into the sea.

Zack collapsed onto Angeal's chest and an arm secured him there as the intense climax made him jerk and shake. His face fell into the shelter of a warm, familiar neck, and once he had enough control of himself, Zack found his favorite patch of skin and began to gently suckle at it. Angeal carefully removed his hand, wiped it on a handful of tissues and massaged the spent body on top of his own. It was a few minutes before he could think properly through this haze of absolute, unguarded happiness, and about the same amount of time before Zack was willing to stop tasting and speak.

"I love you too," the boy said, his voice nearly overwhelmed by the emotion in it. "I want to be yours forever. Only you."

"I'm yours. You're mine," Angeal murmured. "No one and nothing will take you from me. I promise."

He turned his head just as the boy looked up to show a tearful smile. He kissed Zack and breathed him in until the spiky-haired head fell back to his shoulder of its own accord. Angeal laughed softly and felt Zack giggle, the vibrations of it penetrating the elder's skin and pouring like a healing balm onto his heart. Zack must have been sick of sleeping and Angeal hadn't meant to exhaust him, but he couldn't help looking forward to a couple hours of holding his puppy through whatever dreams came and reveling in this bliss.

"My tired pup," he said fondly as Zack comfortably shifted. "How do you feel?"

A laugh was the first answer, not a normal one expressing amusement or its bitter, wordless opposite. It was half a sob, in fact, full of disbelief or wonder or maybe the beginning of tears. Angeal was alarmed and ready to comfort, to blame himself, above all to fix what was wrong.

"Zack? Puppy, talk to me."

"I'm fine." That laughing sound remained beneath the words. "Really."

"You can tell me. It's okay to be upset, just tell me."

"I'm not, it's not that. It's..." A real laugh now, that was reassuring.

"What is it?"

"I feel," Zack whispered, "safe."

Zacky and Angeal get a happy ending! Hope you liked.