I'm back after about six months of no updates! I do appoligize to anyone still reading this. I got my head into other projects that just wouldn't let me go, but I eventually returned!

Reno's new competition

"It's about time somebody visited me!" Sam admonished before she even knew who opened the door.

Zack poked his head in to see Sam propped against a small mountain of pillows with her arm still held immobile against her chest by a brace. She looked completely and utterly bored.

"Oh. It's just you," she muttered moodily.

Zack pouted. "Don't you want to see me?" he whined. "Fine. I guess I just go then."

"NO! Sit," Sam commanded, a little desperate for the attention and company. "Do you know how long it's been since I've had a conversation that doesn't involve really big Latin-ish words I can't pronounce? Too long! It's so boring! Seriously! All the doctors want to know about is my arm!"

"Sounds horrible," Zack agreed as he took a seat in the uncomfortable hospital chair beside her bed. He had came to the conclusion that it was easier to go along with her, that way there was less screaming and death threats.

"It is!" Sam continued without losing stride. "Anyway…how's training with Mama Bear?"

"Mama Bear?" he repeated, an eyebrow raised.

"Angeal," Sam offered as explanation in the insufferable, "all-knowing" tone she liked to use.

"Oh. It's great! It really is. He's so cool!" he gushed. "He took me back to that VR room and let me cut loose in one of the simulators. Then you sort of showed up and kicked my ass…but it still took you like really long to beat me!"

"Uh-ha. You don't say," Sam commented. "That program wouldn't have happened to contain a bunch of experiment gaurdhounds, would it?" Her tone sounded conversational, but her narrowed eyes showed she was out for blood.

"Yeeeesss," Zack drew out, suddenly nervous.

"I thought so. That program is out of date by at least a year and a half. It doesn't have any of my current stats," she remarked smugly, sufficiently bursting Zack's happy bubble.

"Angeal said I did really well!"

"Did he also say you still have a lot to work on and give you a big speech on honor, discipline, and following your dreams, etc, etc?" Sam asked.

"Yea! How did you know?" Zack asked, his thunder completely gone.

"Do you really think you're the only one Angeal's trained? I was his first student and the only other one, ya' know," she smirked. "I miss sparring with him. We haven't had time for a good workout lately, and then…well, this happened," Sam added, gesturing to her arm. She sighed again.

As Sam pouted, there was another knock at the door. It opened and a male approximately in his early to mid twenties with slightly tasseled black hair and bright green eyes appeared. "Excuse me, but is this SOLDIER 1st Class Sam's room?"

"Um…do I know you?" Sam asked. "And yea. First Class. That's me."

The guy looked relieved and entered the room. He was dressed in grey slacks and a baby-blue button down. Sam, being the vain and occasionally shallow person who noticed trivial things like clothes, took note of the undone buttons and black under-shirt the man was wearing. Over his arm he had slung a white lab coat.

"I'm sorry to barge in on you, but I was hoping to discuss your condition. I'm working on a thesis involving long-term exposure to Mako, and—"

"And you are?" Sam asked impatiently. The guy was cute…but he was a labby.

For some reason this guy made Zack a little nervous.

"Oh! My apologies! I'm Russell, Russell Meyers. I'm working under Doctor Hollander on an internship, and when I heard what happened….well, I was hoping you'd be willing to take part in my study." Russell was very excitable, apparently, and a little goofy. But…he was still cute…but he was still a labby.

"Sure," Sam smiled dazzlingly, ignoring her normal repulsion to anything remotely involving needles and beakers. "Any time." Sometimes sacrifices had to be made in the name of science…and in the name of flirting with cute guys. Besides, it would be selfish of her not to tribute to the great quest that was science.

Russell could barely keep his excitement contained and just managed to restrain himself from doing a victory air-punch. "Thanks!" he smiled brightly before he noticed Zack. "Oh…um, I can come back later if—"

"Don't worry about him. He was just leaving anyway. Go on. Run along, Zack," Sam commanded in a tone that suggested teasing, but Zack heard the threat in it as clear as if she said, "Go away or I will hurt you badly."

"Okay," he mumbled before hopping up and heading towards the door. As he left and closed the door behind him, he could hear the sound of Sam's laughter and a lower chuckle from the strange male.

"Sure. Blow me off for that guy…" Zack mumbled as he walked down the hall. As he turned the corner, a hand reached out of a door he hadn't noticed was open and grabbed him by the front of his shirt before yanking him into the room. Zack let loose a shriek as he was caught by surprise. A hand snapped over his mouth and he found himself on the receiving end of a glower from the resident crazy red-haired demon better known to the general population as Reno.

"I'm gonna let ya go. Think ya can keep quiet, yo?" Reno drawled.

Zack nodded to show he understood and hummed, "Mmm-hmm," from behind the other's hand. He was pink in the face—for two reasons. The first reason was the very un-mannly shriek he had let loose. The second reason was because the last time he had been this close to Reno was when the older teen had shoved his tongue down Zack's throat.

"Goood," Reno answered as he took a step back. He pulled the open door shut and regarded Zack predatorily. "Who's the guy?" he demanded.

"Huh?" Zack asked, confused.

"The guy in with my girl, yo!" Reno snapped with a growl. He took a step forward and had Zack pinned against the wall.

"I thought you were done with Sam," Zack commented, a little confused.

"I am. Stop askin' stupid questions!" Reno ordered sharply. "Now who is that guy?" he demanded again.

"I don't know!" Zack called slightly nervous. He could see Reno was getting pretty wound up and he didn't want to be around when the redhead lashed out.

"What is his name?" Reno barked. His eyes blazed as he growled millimeters from Zack's face.

"I don't know!" Zack answered again, desperately trying to remember what the guy said his name was. "Russell! Russell something!" he supplied, hoping that Reno would believe him. "He said something about some study who this Hollender person!"

"There. Was tha' really tha' hard?" Reno grinned before stepping back and winking at him. Unsure of how to react, Zack watched as
Reno turned away and reopened the door before leaving.