Final Fantasy VII
A Feeling of Home
Notes: The characters are not mine, and the story is! The prompt The curtain falls from 30 Hugs was the main inspiration. The idea of using a literal curtain was inspired by Candy Chan, but the similarities in our stories end there. Sick day at 30 Gens also assisted in shaping the plot. Thanks to Kaze for other plot help and the title! The bit about Lazard's misspelled name is from an in-joke we started.
Zack really did not know why he felt so strange. When he had awakened in the morning, he had felt a bit queasy. He had burrowed into the pillow, not wanting to move. But he had learned from past experience that nausea sometimes got worse if one was laying down. So he had forced himself to rise. And the feeling had passed, enabling him to feel well enough to go about his normal duties.
Even so, throughout the day there had been a keen sense of exhaustion hanging over his mind. He had even accidentally typed "Lizard" when he meant "Lazard." Thankfully, he had caught it in time. But the whole day had been like that, full of crazy mistakes. Now that it was finally ending, all he wanted was to take a quick shower and then curl up in bed. So far, he had almost accomplished the first of those goals.
The water beat down over his aching body and through his wild spikes, forcing them to lay flat on his head. He yawned, stretching as he stared at the opposite wall. It remained in place for a while, as it should, but then divided in two. Oh great, so now he was seeing double? He glowered, looking away.
The sudden turn of his head was not a good idea. Dizziness rushed to greet him, swirling around him until equilibrium was a joke. An alarmed yelp tore from his lips as he pitched forward, his legs giving out beneath him. In desperation he grabbed the shower curtain, his knuckles turning white, but it could not hold his weight. The rod was pulling away from the wall. He went down, sprawling in the tub in a tangled mess with the curtain. The rod clanged as it hit the side of the enamel. The sound immediately echoed in his ears, refusing to stop. And the feeling that he was going to be sick was back.
He moaned, tugging at the metal pole from where it had fallen against his left arm. His limb was caught between the rod and the top of the shower curtain, and the more he tried to pull it loose, the more it did not want to come. And the curtain was hopelessly wrapped around his right foot. He slumped against the back of the tub. Maybe he should just stay here until the nausea passed again. Trying to get free as long as it was there was just making him stressed.
His eyes closed.
It was weird, when real life was paralleled in slumber. The shower was still coming down on him in his dream, only now he was sitting in the middle of the base in a giant puddle of rainwater. He was still tangled up, too, and the shower curtain was laughing maniacally at his predicament.
"Hey, help!" he screamed, struggling to get free. The curtain refused to let him go. If anything, it clung tighter. It was mocking him.
And there was some kind of banging coming from somewhere. It was just causing his headache to get even worse. He groaned, turning his head away from it. But still it continued. Whatever was making the racket almost seemed like it was calling to him.
"Zack! Can you hear me? Answer if you hear me. Zack!"
Seph. It was Seph. And that was not in his dream; Seph was there!
He forced his eyes open. He was still slumped in the tub, the shower was still beating on him and the curtain, and the whole thing was filling up because a corner of the curtain had fallen over the drain. Seph was banging on the door and rattling the knob. Stupid thing must have jammed again. Zack had almost got locked in the bathroom once before because of it. He had only escaped because he had managed to slip a nail file in and release the latchbolt.
"Seph?" Zack managed to call. His voice was a lot weaker and raspier than he remembered it being.
By now Sephiroth was throwing his weight against the door to bust it in, so it was debatable whether he had heard Zack's pained reply. The brunet stayed where he was, not that he could have moved if he had tried. The door was starting to give way. A vague smirk came over his features. Good ol' Seph. A jammed door had nothing on him.
It flew open, hitting the wall with another head-splitting crack. Sephiroth hurried inside, his eyes narrowed as he took in the sight. "What happened?" he demanded as he came over to the bathtub. Zack's skin was flushed, his eyes glassy. A cruel bruise was forming on his forehead.
"Just a little accident," Zack said with a weak grin, watching as Seph unwound his arm from the rod and the curtain. "Stupid thing fell down."
"You don't look well," Sephiroth frowned. "How did you fall?" He began to free Zack's foot from the stubborn clutches of the plastic.
"Got a little light-headed, I think," Zack mumbled. "Nothing to worry about."
"You've been ill all day," Sephiroth said. "Did you think I wouldn't notice? I was coming to check on you when I heard something crash."
Zack smirked. "Guess I should've known better than to try to hide it from the General," he said. "Thanks, pal. I'm okay now. Really." Seph was pushing the curtain away from the drain now, reaching to turn off the water as well. He straightened, looking back to the other man with a disbelieving expression.
"Are you?" he said. "Can you stand?"
"Sure!" Zack said, even though that was the last thing he felt like doing. He would rather lay down in the cold, wet tub and go to sleep instead of trying to get up right now. But with a shaking hand he grasped the wall, beginning to pull himself to his feet. His legs wanted no part of it. Again he was falling forward, the side of the tub anxious to give him another souvenir of their time together.
Strong arms caught him before he could impact. Zack gripped at the black cloth of Seph's coat, shaking as the world spun around him. "Oh man . . ." he moaned, shutting his eyes against the rocking sensation. His upper body slumped into Seph's grasp.
While keeping one arm firmly around his friend, Sephiroth reached for the big towel Zack had set on the sink's counter. Somehow he managed to unfold it and spread it around Zack's shoulders. Even draped horizontally, it hung all the way past his hips. Sephiroth wrapped it around Zack's frame before bending to get one hand behind Zack's knees. As he straightened, he lifted the younger man into his arms.
Zack murmured in surprise. "I feel like some little kid," he said as Seph carried him out of the bathroom.
Sephiroth grunted. "Everyone needs help sometimes," he said. "Isn't that what you always tell me?"
"Yeah . . ." Zack rested his head against Seph's shoulder.
"You must have come down with the bug that's been going around the base," Sephiroth said as he entered the bedroom. He laid Zack on the bed, then went to the chest of drawers to look for clothes.
Zack watched him through bleary eyes. "Then you might catch it if you hang around me," he said. He wanted to get up and find his clothes himself, but he could not move. He clutched the towel with a shaking hand.
"I'll be fine," Sephiroth answered. Locating a pair of boxer shorts and Zack's pajamas, he returned to the bed. By now the towel had helped to dry Zack somewhat, but Sephiroth ran the corners over the still-damp skin some more anyway. Zack should not be dressed when he was drenched. In his condition, he needed to be completely dry.
Despite being so ill, Zack was still very aware of what was happening around him. And he was obviously embarrassed at being seen in his current state, not to mention having to be dressed by someone else. Sephiroth worked quickly and efficiently, taking the towel away once Zack was clothed. He threw it into a small clothes hamper near the closet.
"Thanks, Seph," Zack mumbled. Even turning onto his side was going to be too much. So he remained on his back, staring up at the ceiling. But that could only last for a moment before he had to close his eyes again. Everything ached. To look at anything hurt. To hear anything might start to hurt, too.
". . . I don't think I've ever been this sick away from home before," he said with a weak grin.
Sephiroth had to wonder what it would even be like, to be sick at home. Zack's parents would have tended to him then, of course, making sure he had everything he needed. And they would have been genuinely concerned about his state of health. When Sephiroth had fallen ill, he had only had indifferent doctors and nurses--or worse, Hojo. He had gotten so he had not wanted to go to anyone when he was sick. It was preferable to try to treat himself. But of course, there were times when it was not possible.
Zack had tended to him the most recent times when he had been ill. He had fussed over Seph and had come at various times of the day to see if there was anything he could do. When he had been able, he had just stayed there, reading a book or watching TV and frequently coming to check on Seph in the bedroom.
Maybe Sephiroth did know what it was like to be sick at home.
He walked back to the bed, carrying a quilt he had found on the closet shelf. He would not try to move Zack so that he would be laying under the covers instead of on top of them. Instead, this second quilt could go over him for now.
Zack watched as Seph unfurled the quilt, laying it on top of him with care. Zack slumped further into the pillow as he snuggled into the bed and the comforter. With a weak hand he gripped at the edge.
"I need to take your temperature," Sephiroth told him.
Zack groaned. "Right now?"
"Yes. If it's very high, you might have to be moved to the infirmary." Sephiroth turned, going back to the bathroom to find the thermometer.
The shower curtain and the rod were still sprawled in the bathtub. He eyed them with a frown before opening the medicine cabinet. He would fix them back up later. It might make a lot of noise, and Zack should be able to be at peace right now. If he did not have to leave his quarters, he should go to sleep.
There was the thermometer, new in its package. Sephiroth shook his head, vaguely amused. Of course Zack had never used it yet. Though, he did not often get sick at all. He was always so full of cheer and energy.
Opening the container, Sephiroth drew out the device inside and pressed the button, checking to make certain it still worked. The small screen lit up with a beep. He walked out of the bathroom, coming back to the bedroom.
Zack's head was turned to the side, his eyes closed. Had he finally gone to sleep or was he just resting? Sephiroth frowned. He hated to wake the other.
But the lavender eyes cracked open a fraction of an inch. "Let's get it over with," Zack said, still sounding weakened.
Sephiroth came to the edge of the bed, placing the thermometer in Zack's mouth. The brunet gave a weary sigh, closing his eyes again. In case he did fall asleep, Sephiroth held the other end steady. When it beeped several moments later, it was not hard to imagine that Zack was making a silent exclamation of joy.
Sephiroth withdrew the object, looking at the screen. He frowned at the numbers.
"Is it that bad, Seph?" Zack moaned.
"It's one hundred," Sephiroth returned. "It might go higher." He gave his friend a pitying look. "But we'll wait a while and see."
"Yes," Zack grinned in triumph.
"Do you need anything else?" Sephiroth asked.
"I'm good," Zack said. "I think I just want to try sleeping now."
Sephiroth nodded, turning off the light as he moved to return the thermometer to the bathroom. He would sterilize it and then put it away. And maybe he would see if he could find a cloth he could dampen with cool water to place on Zack's forehead. Then he would linger a while, perhaps reading a book or doing some work in the living room while monitoring Zack's condition. He owed it to Zack after everything Zack had done for him. But it was more than that that was motivating him; he wanted to help his friend.
He wanted to make sure that Zack did not have to feel so far removed from home.