Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII is the property of Square-Enix. No profit is sought from this work.
Warnings: Four naked men and several kinds of crack.
Independence Day in the People's Republic of Zack
"Zack, have you seen the..." Angeal sighed. "Puppy, we talked about this?"
Zack scratched his head. "I thought that was only for work."
"Well, yes," Angeal began.
"Great! It's my day off!" Zack bounced up and down on the balls of his feet. Angeal tried not to get distracted.
"I know it's your day off," he said, feeling the first pangs of a headache, "but I think that it might still be necessary-"
"What are you saying, Angeal?" Zack quit bouncing and looked at his mentor, fixing the perfect mask of utter betrayal on his face. "Didn't you say I could do what I wanted on my day off?" he whined.
"Yes, I did but-"
"And didn't you say that what I do in my own apartment is my business?"
"It is, Zack, but really-"
"Then how come you're making a fuss now?" Zack whimpered, not letting Angeal get a word in edgewise. "Don't you know what today is? It's a really special occasion. If I can't do this today it would be a complete disgrace. All these restrictions are unhealthy and unnatural and against my very nature and-"
"Oh, for the love of Gaia, boy" Angeal roared. "PUT ON SOME FUCKING PANTS!"
The instant the words left his mouth, Angeal knew he had erred. Zack's brilliant eyes went wide and far too shiny. His lower lip began to tremble. He drew his limbs in, subconsciously withdrawing. Tears welled up, threatening to spill. Angeal recognized the signs. It was full-blown 'kicked puppy' mode and it was all his fault.
"Zack, I didn't mean it that way," he started, not even sure what Zack was thinking, but attempting to forestall the inevitable. But alas, this was a force beyond reckoning. Zack threw his head back and began to wail.
One floor up and two rooms over, Sephiroth and Genesis had been enjoying a peaceful breakfast, near the window where they could bask in the dawn's early light. Well, Genesis was basking at any rate. Sephiroth had his head down on the table, waiting for more coffee to brew.
"Rough night?" Genesis asked, taking a dainty sip from his cup.
"You know it was," Sephiroth groaned, never lifting his head.
Genesis set his cup down, taking a moment to enjoy the light chink of fine china meeting polished wood. He really had outdone himself with this purchase. "Don't worry, General. Just wait till you have some of that Corel Roast brew. You'll be up in no time."
"I'd better be," Sephiroth grumbled. "And what is that noise?"
"From downstairs." Sephiroth lifted his head carefully. "Sounds like some kind of yipping animal."
Genesis leaned closer to the window. "Hm, you're right. I do believe that's Angeal's pet going on about something."
Sephiroth grunted. "Damn puppy. Getting me up on a morning."
Angeal's voice cut cleanly through the morning air and the whining noise in the background stopped. Sephiroth raised his eyebrows, looking around with hope, only to have that hope dashed when the puppy's wailing resumed, louder and more piercing that before.
Sephiroth let his head smack the table again. "Bloody hell," he rasped.
"Can't say I care much for being roused like this in the morning myself," Genesis said into his cup, finishing his coffee. "Shall we go down there and ensure that Angeal isn't spanking the pup without a safeword?"
"Hell, pup, if it means that much to you," Angeal frowned and reached for his belt buckle, ready to do whatever it took to appease his puppy and put a stop to the howling. Sephiroth and Genesis walked in just as he was working his zipper.
The other SOLDIERs both froze in the doorway, taking in the scene: Zack Fair, hugging his knees in the middle of the living room floor, naked and wailing, and Angeal, towering over him, fixing his fly. The three men stared at one another, never blinking. "It's not what it looks like," Angeal blurted.
"Pity," Genesis murmured.
Sephiroth sighed. "What's going on?"
Angeal made an awkward half-turn, holding his pants closed and up with one hand. "The pup here's upset because I don't want him answering the door naked."
Sephiroth suddenly looked much more alert. "What's wrong with answering the door naked?"
Genesis nodded. "I rather like it myself."
Angeal made and exasperated sound. "Look, you two pervs are free to do whatever you want, but I'm not going to let my pup get a reputation he doesn't deserve before he has the rank to protect him."
Sephiroth smirked. "How are you so sure he doesn't deserve it?"
"Oh, I see you're up now, Sephiroth," Genesis said in a low voice.
"All the way up," Seph replied in the same tone. Angeal turned away from the pair of them in disgust.
Zack was winding down a bit, finally, finally running out of air. Angeal knew there might only be a little while before the puppy started up again. "Look, I'm just thinking of what's best for the kid. You know how it is in SOLDIER. We all know Seph's the stoic one and Kunsel's the nosy one and Gen, you're the-"
"Yes, I know, I'm the pretty one." Genesis preened.
"... Right," Angeal continued. "I just don't want my puppy to have to live down being Zack, the naked one." Right on cue, Zack started wailing again.
Genesis shrugged and pitched his voice over the noise. "Do you really think he'd mind?" At this Angeal's face went blank. "I see," Genesis continued. "Never even asked his opinion of it. Hang on." He walked in and sank to his knees in front of Zack, trying to get the young man's attention.
"I wonder," Sephiroth began breezily, catching Angeal's eye with the way he leaned against the door frame, "You see SOLDIERs in the locker rooms all the time. What is it about Fair being naked that has you objecting to nudity?"
Angeal glared at him. "I'm just looking out for his welfare."
"Really?" Sephiroth's smirk grew nastier. "If I were in your position, I'd be looking out for his ass."
Down on the floor, Genesis was cooing to Zack in a playful tone. "Come on, puppy, it's okay. If you calm down, I'll give you a treat. Look!" He reached into a pocket and pulled out a length of yarn. "I have string! You like string, right? Want to play with the string?" He dangled the length of it in front of Zack's face.
Oddly enough, it worked. Zack's wails wound down and he looked up, red-eyed, still a little teary and confused as heck. "Uh, string is for cats," he said.
Genesis froze. "Ah, yes. Sorry." He tipped his head at Sephiroth. "I'm used to playing with that one."
Sephiroth gave a lazy smile. "How about you tell us what the issue is, Zack?"
Zack sniffled a little and stayed on the floor. "Angeal doesn't like me walking around naked, Sir, but I feel more comfortable this way. So we made a deal that inside my own apartment, on my own time, I can be as naked as I like. But then today of all days, he comes in and starts complaining again." Zack began to whimper, precursor to another wailing session.
"It's not too much to ask for you to put something on before you open the door, puppy," Angeal almost snapped.
"But I'm still inside my apartment!" Zack protested. "The one little part of Zackland territory out here, you can't go taking that away from me."
The First Classes were confused. "Zackland?" Sephiroth asked.
Zack nodded. "Yes. The People's Republic of Zack, or Zackland for short. We're dedicated nudists."
"Really," Genesis said, smiling as wide as Angeal had ever seen. "Sounds interesting. Tell me, do I need a visa to visit."
"No visiting!" Angeal snapped.
"No visa," Zack said, smiling a little too. "Just a willingness to abide by the rules."
"And the rules are no pants?" Sephiroth asked, coming closer.
"Yep, no pants, especially today." Zack rose, standing tall, making Angeal turn away holding his head. "Today's our Independence Day!"
"Glorious!" Genesis said.
"Oh, it is!" Zack answered, then wondered why Genesis looked surprised.
"So," Sephiroth said, "exactly how do you celebrate Zackland Independence."
"Yes, let's celebrate with you," said Genesis.
"How about let's not?" Angeal growled. "Aren't you two a little old for playing pretend?" They ignored him.
"Okay, first we all gather together," Zack began, looking more cheerful by the second.
Sephiroth looked around. "We're gathered."
Zack rolled his eyes. "Dressed as Zacklanders."
"Ah, I see. Just a moment." Sephiroth began to strip.
"Just a nothing," Angeal griped. "You wait a minute here!"
"Oh, come on, Angeal, stop being such a stiff," Genesis said as he undid his buckles. "Clearly this means a lot to your pup. Don't you want to make the boy feel at home?"
"Or maybe you want to keep pretending that your zipper got that way by itself," Sephiroth added with a pointed glance down.
Angeal grumbled and conceded, though he made a point of locking and bolting the door. In a matter of minutes all three First Classes were wearing the native dress of Zackland. "Now what?" Genesis asked, far too eager for Angeal's liking.
"Well, normally, we start with a fun frolic through the fields, stopping to smell the flowers and get in touch with Gaia and our natural selves."
"Oh, good, I like getting in touch with myself," said Genesis.
"But where do we find a field?" Sephiroth asked.
Zack bounced up and down, heedless of how Sephiroth's eyes followed. "I know a place!"
Security cam watch was the lowest of the low. It was the domain of those who couldn't cut it in real security. It was Rent-a-Cop work that a twelve-year old could do. It was an insult to anyone with half a degree of competence. Which was part of the reason Reno found himself sitting in a hard chair in the godforsaken hours of the morning (it was just after ten, but as far as Reno was concerned, Saturday wasn't mean to have a morning in the first place), with his eyes lazily scanning over a wall of black and white screens.
Doing this on a Saturday was the pits, the pits, his brain screamed. So he got a little too happy last night. He'd told Tseng his dinner plans. What did the guy expect to happen from going to a place called 'Happy Pizza'? That old stiff was lucky Reno hadn't ordered the Happy salad too.
One screen flickered and returned to stillness. It could have been nothing, a simple glitch in the programming, or... Reno tapped halfheartedly at the laptop he'd connected to the control panel, bringing up the Turk back-up camera for that zone. Unlike the original image, this one showed the door to the stairwell still swinging closed. Reno sat up for a better look. Somebody was rerouting the feed to the main system.
Reno's hands raced over the keyboard, bringing up back-up cam after back-up, trying to get ahead of the potential intruders. Nobody seemed to be coming into the building, which left one thing. Somebody was going out. Reno swore and switched gears, tuning in for the cameras in the stairwell instead. Floor after floor showed nothing. Whoever it was, they moved fast.
In a stroke of luck, the second floor corner cam flickered to life to show the backs of four heads. Identification was simple. There was no mistaking the silver hair and two of the others were easy enough to guess from there. The really wild spiky one had to be that kid Angeal was training. They rounded the corner and Reno raced to bring up the next camera in line.
It was a few feet lower along the wall. Irregular spacing helped the cams evade detection. Reno was treated to a glorious view of sculpted SOLDIER torsos. "Sweet!" he muttered, then cursed the camera wasn't even lower than it was.
He let his fingers fly across the keys, racing against time as they neared the exit. At the very last instant, he was favored by the gods. The final camera, aimed at the door, treated him to a view of four of the finest male asses to ever grace the Planet's face. Well, three and a curtain of silver hair. Reno scoffed. "So that's what it's all about, General." He sighed, leaning forward, cheek on one hand, to take in the view. "Still, that's one hell of a view." Reno wasn't a praying man, but he turned his head up and offered silent thanks to whatever it was looking out for him anyway.
"What a rush, right, Angeal?" Zack was bouncing in his boots again as they slid through the back alleys away from the train station. "Bet you never rode naked before."
"Can't say that I have, no." Angeal grumbled, trying to make a discreet check to make sure the ride hadn't jostled the package overmuch.
"I always ride naked," Sephiroth said.
"So do I," Genesis said, looking at Angeal incredulously.
Angeal grunted. "We're not naked! We've got our boots on."
Sephiroth smirked. "Even better!"
Zack led them through the dark corners, past a drunken wino or too and into an old church. "I saw this place when I took a walk the other day. I don't know where the flowers come from."
Sephiroth and Genesis took a look around. The place was decrepit, but sturdy, and the patch in the center was barely big enough, but it would do for a Zackland expatriate's purposes. Angeal look concerned.
"How do you suppose these grow here?" But the others weren't listening. Zack kicked his boots off with abandon and began to bounce through the flowers. Beside Angeal, Genesis sighed.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
"What is?" Angeal growled.
"One happy young puppy, playing in the grass. How long since you and I were that young and carefree, Angeal?"
Angeal sighed. "Maybe never."
Genesis gave him a nudge. "Don't you think it's time we gave it a try?" Angeal shrugged. "Better decide quick. I think the pup's about to get pounced." He nodded in the direction of Sephiroth, who was staring at Zack with interest that Angeal would definitely call less than pure. The General was still working his boots off but Angeal recognized the smirk.
"Oh, no, you don't, SOLDIER," he growled and leapt into the fray with Genesis close behind him.
They bounced and ran and chased each other in circles for nearly an hour. Sephiroth earned a whack to the head when he announced that he was "going to chase the little puppy's tail" but other than that there'd been no harm done. The four of them sank into the flowerbed, inhaling the scent of growing things and fertile earth beneath. Even Angeal looked more at ease.
"I miss this smell sometimes," he said.
"Me too," said Zack, rolling over. He had grass stains all over him, like some sort of faint tribal tattoo, reaching into all but the most private of portions. Angeal sighed.
"So what's next for Zackland Independence Day?" Genesis asked. "Do we get in touch with ourselves now."
"Is that all you think about?" Angeal scoffed.
"No," Genesis said. "I think about getting in touch with yourself too. And Seph's self. And now-"
"That'll do, Genesis," Sephiroth said. "What's next, Zack?"
"Next," Zack sighed. "We enjoy a traditional Zackland meal. Which is usually a big barbecue."
Genesis sat up. "I could do with some barbecue."
Angeal's stomach growled. "Me too."
Sephiroth nodded. "You want barbecue, we'll have barbecue." He whipped out his cell phone and began to dial.
"Um, Sephiroth?" Angeal ventured. "Where exactly were you keeping that?"
But the person on the other end picked up and Sephiroth took his attention away. Genesis slid an arm around Angeal's waist. "You should play with us like you used to, Angeal. You might find out."
Sephiroth wrapped up his conversation and snapped the phone shut. "We have barbecue! It will be waiting for us at Fair's place when we get back."
Genesis sighed. "The privileges of rank, eh, Seph?"
Sephiroth smirked. "You like it, you know you do."
Then the door began to creak. Zack sat up. "What was that?"
Angeal tensed. "Someone's coming!"
"Get your shoes!" Sephiroth ordered. "Split up if you have to and meet back on the 1:30 train to Sector Four."
The SOLDIERs sprang into action and went leaping and flying past the altar as they made their way out. At the entrance to the church, a young girl stood, wide-eyed and silent, having caught only the slightest flash of movement.
"Wow," she said, after a lengthy pause. The visions the Planet sent her were often disturbing, but she wouldn't mind a few more like that.
"I'm telling you, Tseng," Reno insisted, "I saw Sephiroth, Genesis, Angeal and that kid Angeal teaches heading out the building stark, swinging-balls naked!"
Tseng was not amused. "Reno," he started, "You're still high, aren't you?"
"I'm serious, Tseng! They were tippy tiptoeing down the stair well. I don't know what they were up to and I haven't heard anything on the news reports but-"
Tseng sighed. "Reno, no more Happy Pizza on the job, okay? None. And the cameras are flickering on your watch."
"What, again?" Reno spun the chair around. "Holy crap, they're coming back in! Hang on a second, Sir." He bypassed the interference again to get a clear chest shot of each man as they made their way back up the stairwell. "See! See, Tseng!" Tseng nodded, unable to blink. "Told you I wasn't stoned," Reno said smugly. "Well, not much."
"Legs are awesome!"
"Breast is better."
"Easy, you two. Besides, you want the real secret of sweetness, it's in the neck."
"... You've been spending too much time in Wutai. What about you, puppy?"
"Who, me?" Zack mumbled with his mouth full. "I like wings."
"Wings?" Genesis scoffed. "What in the world are you thinking?"
Sephiroth smacked him in the arm. "Let the boy dream. Besides, more breast for you, right?"
"You're getting sauce on me!" Genesis protested. Sephiroth proceeded to get it off, feeling Zack's eyes on him the whole while. Surprisingly, Angeal didn't even say a word against it. Seemed he couldn't argue on a belly full of barbecue.
They sprawled out across the floor in the Zackland Embassy and collectively made their way through six chickens, five slabs of pork ribs, one hind quarter of a very large cow and the commissary's entire supply of hot dogs. It was an Independence Day feast worth remembering through the ages. They lay there too full to move for a while before Sephiroth asked the all-important question. "What next?"
Zack tried to answer, but the food coma was setting in strong and he was so warm and cozy snuggling in beside Angeal, who for once wasn't protesting and shoving him away. "Isn't it obvious, Sir?" he said through a yawn. "Just lie here and... yeah." Within minutes they were all asleep.
"I just want to ask a few questions, Reno."
"That's going to be some interview, Sir. What are you going to say? 'Uniform shortage in SOLDIER, boys? Yeah, that last round of budget cuts was rough'."
When Tseng's careful knock went unanswered, he slid his all-access card in the lock and took a look. Inside lay the four SOLDIERs in question, naked as jaybirds, smeared with red and dead to the world.
"Oh my god! They killed themselves! Or each other!" Reno blurted out, stumbling into Tseng's back.
Tseng thought the same, wondering if the whole nude run had been part of some kind of murder-suicide pact before the smell hit him. "Relax, Reno. They're asleep. It's only barbecue sauce."
"Huh?" Reno looked around, spotting the big dish where they'd tossed all the bones in an impromptu game of barbecue basketball (unbeknownst to him as the second national pastime of the People's Republic of Zack, the first being penis puppetry).
Tseng gathered himself together. "We'll come back later. I suspect drugs and alcohol may have been involved. We won't be getting any straight answers here now."
Reno took a look at how Angeal had an arm wrapped around his trainee's waist, and how Genesis had his head pillowed on Sephiroth's stomach. "I don't think there are any straight answers here."
Tseng turned. "Let's go."
There was considerably less light when they finally roused themselves from the floor. Genesis scrubbed at himself with his fingers, disturbed to find that smears of deep red barbecue sauce had dried on him while he napped.
"Relax, Gen," Sephiroth said. "It looks good on you. Matches your hair." Genesis was not amused.
Angeal was slow to stir but once he did, he sat up far too quickly, scrambling to put some distance between himself and sleepy, naked Zack. The puppy whimpered in his sleep from the loss of warmth and woke without wanting to. He rolled over and blinked up at Angeal, hitting the man with bleary puppy eyes.
"Come on, pup. Time to wash up."
Zack whined in protest. "But it's still Independence Day."
"What, Zacklanders don't take showers on Independence?" Angeal snorted.
"I could use a shower," Genesis mumbled.
"Sun's going down." Zack pointed out the window. "It's time for fireworks."
"Fireworks sound good," Sephiroth said, stretching. "But I second Genesis' thoughts about the shower."
Zack sighed, shoulders slumping. "Bathroom's that way." He didn't even take note of how the two men headed off together. He set himself on his worn couch (3rd hand from Kunsel, with a note that said 'May it bring you as much good luck nudge wink as it did me', because Zacklanders were personable and thrifty).
Angeal paused, then took a seat beside him, careful to keep the distance passing decent. "What's the matter, Zack. Didn't you have a good Independence Day thing?"
"Yeah, it was great," Zack said softly, failing to ward off the slow, heavy silence of things winding down to a close.
"Then what's the matter? If you really want those fireworks I'm sure we can find something after we're all washed. There's a shipment of security flares due to go to the Turks."
Zack gave Angeal a weak, tired smile. "It's not that. It's just... you had fun today, right?"
"I did, puppy."
"And maybe wasn't it just a little more thrilling and uninhibited and freer doing it without clothes and trying not to get caught?"
Angeal nodded slowly. "Yeah, it was pretty fun, alright."
Zack's face crumpled. "Then why do you always make such a big deal out of me walking around naked? I don't do it outside my place. I'm not flashing little kids. Why do I have to make up something as ridiculous as Zackland Independence for you to get that?"
Angeal felt something in him twist. "Oh, pup, it's not really the 'you being naked' part I mind." He choked on his own voice, not sure how to say what was inside.
"Then what is it?" Zack asked with hardly a trace of whine. "Is it how Sephiroth stares at me? I asked him once, he said he does it to keep Genesis on his toes."
"No, no, puppy," Angeal whispered. "It's not you or Sephiroth or even Genesis. It's me."
"You?" Zack looked up.
"What you do to me, puppy. You're so young and the last thing I want to do it hurt you. I would never-"
"No!" Zack shook his head fiercely. "You don't get to give me the 'It's not you, it's me' speech when we aren't even together."
"Puppy," Angeal groaned, "I don't want to push you into anything you didn't want, but I have authority over you and I don't want you think that you have to-" He was cut off by a pair of soft lips.
Zack pulled away, eyes sparkling, cheeks pink. "I'm not a child, Angeal, even if I act like one sometimes. I know what I want."
"Puppy." Angeal couldn't say much more.
"That's better." Zack took it as a good sign and edged closer. "It's Zacklanders who are supposed to have the rep for babbling."
"Zack, pup," Angeal grasped for any excuse to pull back. "You're so young."
Zack laughed and leaned lightly against him. "I'm old enough for SOLDIER, Angeal. That means I'm old enough for a lot of things. Besides," and here he swung his legs up to settle himself in Angeal's lap, "Zackland age of consent is thirteen and a half. You're a little late."
Angeal made to grab Zack by the scruff of the neck and settle him elsewhere but halfway through the gesture turned soft. Angeal found his hand lingering of its own accord, running into Zack's soft spiky hair and back down, over skin and ridges of muscle. Still nude, there was no hiding the effect Zack's weight, scent and sheer closeness were having on him. At least he wasn't alone.
Zack inched closer with a small twist of hips, a light taste of everything he wanted to give. Angeal gasped from the one instance of perfect pressure and then wished on the stars in Zack's eyes that it would come back. "Zack," he whispered, unable to speak without his voice cracking. Zack answered with a hopeful little whimper. Angeal felt everything fall into place. "Love you, puppy."
Zack squealed and wrapped his arms around Angeal's neck. "I love you too, Angeal," he said into the side of his mentor's neck. "Let me show you!"
"Whoa, easy, Zack," Angeal grabbed Zack's thighs in an attempt to slow him. "A little lube and prep time first, okay? I said I don't want to hurt you."
Zack sat back and gave him a devilish grin. "But I bet you make it hurt good, Angeal."
"Puppy," Angeal warned.
"So, so good!" Zack laughed. Angeal smacked him on the rump, which earned a startled yelp and a husky plea for more.
Angeal sighed and indulged. "Bad puppy."
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Genesis said, watching from the bedroom doorway.
Sephiroth stood behind him, still damp from the shower. "Almost a shame, it seems. I was actually looking forward to fireworks."
Genesis turned and purred. "There are all kinds of fireworks, General. I rather like their kind."
"Is that so?" Sephiroth leaned in to nip Genesis' earlobe. "I happen to have a four-stage rocket that I've been wanting to launch all day. Care to give me a hand with it?"
"I'll give you more than a hand."
"Zacklandia! Zacklandia! Most Fair on bended knee!
Come grind your hips and make your lips a perfect 'o' for meeeeee!"
Angeal glanced over as Zack finished singing. "Seph, you're supposed to put your hands on your heart."
"Gen's ass is shaped like a heart."
"Oh." Angeal thought it over. "Well, in that case..."
Zack yelped. It was the best Zackland Independence Day ever!
Tseng swung the door open, looked inside, said absolutely nothing, then locked the door tight again. He turned, neither too quick nor too slow, and began a steady walk back to his office.
"I told you there's no straight answers," Reno said.