fuel and fire

chapter two:
a closing skyline

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Zack had never woken up with a horrible hangover in his life. He'd always been one to hold his liquor extremely well and wake up the next morning chipper and bright while his friends glared at him with their bloodshot eyes. However, this time it was different. He'd fluttered into consciousness because of a strange noise. When he opened his eyes, his head was assaulted with a violent and painful throb. He cried out and snuggled his face back into the pillow. The throbs did not stop. To Zack's misfortune, he could not keep his face pressed against the soft feather pillow, for it was soaked with saliva. He pulled away drowsily, waiting for his eyesight to focus. There was a large wet spot of spit. He mumbled and gracelessly stuffed a hand into his pocket, searching for his cell phone, which he assumed was making the noise. Indeed it was, for the moment his fingers touched the electronic device, he felt the vibrations. Struggling, he pulled it out of his pocket and pressed the talk button as fast as he could, trying incredibly hard to silence the music he'd set as his ringtone.

"Hullo," he grumbled, voice scratchy.

"Wow, man, you sound like hell," a voice came from the other line. Zack mumbled something incoherently and flipped over his pillow, pressing his face into the feathers again. "Do you feel the same?"

"Twenty four," Zack grumbled against the cotton of the pillow case.

"Damn. Sorry 'ere man."

"I can only say one thing," Zack told him.


"I'm never drinking with you again."

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

One shower, three cups of coffee and three aspirins later, Zack felt his headache dull. Unfortunately, since his head no longer throbbed, he could concentrate on the nausea churning in his stomach. He grabbed a sleeve of saltines out of the cabinet. He paused. A little peanut butter couldn't hurt, so he grabbed that as well. He was not trustworthy of his peanut-butter spreading skills due to the fact that he was still a little bit drunk.

Shuffling to the couch, he fought with the top of the peanut butter, attempting to twist it open. However, with a sleeve of saltines in his arms as well, he found it incredibly difficult. He slowly sat on the black pleather sofa, sighing when he finally got open the jar of peanut butter. He hastily took a saltine and shoved it into the jar, attempting to scoop up some of the substance. It merely broke in half. He frowned and tried again. The same thing happened. Seventeen and a half tries later, he set the saltine encrusted peanut butter on the table and looked at it for a moment.

He stood again, walking back into the kitchen to retrieve a spoon and shovel out some peanut butter. When he got the spoon, he stuffed it into his mouth, striding back to the couch. He felt almost heroic…at least, until he sat down. Upon throwing himself back onto the couch, he heard the crunch-crunch-crunch of the saltines beneath him. He sat in silence for a second, pondering why God hated him so much. He then took the spoon out of his mouth and threw it on the floor, grumbling.

Zack figured since he lacked the ability to use a spoon or interact with peanut butter and saltines at all, it would probably be a better idea to try a more daily and routine task, such as changing his clothes. He stood from the couch, careful not to step on the spoon he so lazily discarded. Walking up the stairs was no challenge. He shuffled into his room and over to his closet, and stared blankly into the abyss of clothing. He didn't plan on going anywhere today, except maybe the hospital from injuring himself in some careless accident, so he really had no reason to change. He figured he could at least change his boxers though. He walked away from the neatly organized closet to his dresser and opened the top left drawer, pulling out a pair of plaid boxers. Closing the drawer with his elbow, he turned and threw them on the bed.

Five minutes later, Zack still had not managed to change his boxers. He had fought a war with his pajama pants and managed to tie the strings around his digits, cutting off circulation to his fingertips. He frowned and then tried to yank them down mercilessly, causing him to lose his balance and faceplant onto the bed. He gave up after that.

It was just not his day.

Suddenly, his cell phone rang once again, jolting him out of his momentary self-loathing. He reached over lazily to the nightstand and answered it without looking at the caller ID.

"Drunk and Dumb, how may I help you?" He said sarcastically.

"Zackary, dear?"

Zack frowned. Again, it was not his day. "Hi, mom."

"How are you today? What are you up to? It certainly has been a while since we've spoken," his mother said.

"I was having a boxing match with my boxers…. Ha, that's funny."

There was a long silence.

"…What? Zacky, are you okay?" She inquired gently. Zack sighed.

"Yes, mother, I'm fine. I'm just… having difficulties today. How are you?"

"Worried about you, my little Zacky, honestly. A man called here earlier today and told me that you had been fired from your job with Shinra Inc.!"

Zack had the urge to roll over onto his bed and smother himself.


"You were? Oh, dear… He told me it was because you'd been watching child porn on the company connections… I'm very worried."

Zack snorted.

"Hardly. No, mother, I was fired under false accusations. My job's termination had absolutely nothing to do with child porn, I can assure you," he told her.

"Oh, I didn't think it was true, hon. I knew you didn't have that bad in you."

"Yeah, so, uh, who called you and told you that?" Zack inquired. He really didn't need the answer from his mother, because he already knew that it was –

"Rufus Shinra."


"Yeah, Rufus is a child molester… I guess he was looking in the mirror when he accused me of that."


"Sorry, mom."

She sighed.

"Actually, I was getting ready to start looking for a job before you called," Zack admitted… minus the boxer-war.

"Zacky, you know you're always welcome if you ever need to move back in… I can always fix up a job for you."

Zack snorted. "Yes, I would absolutely love to work at the pottery barn with you. I do love me some pottery." His mother merely sighed in agitation once more. "I'm sorry. I appreciate the offer, but I'm fine right now, alright?"

"Alright. Call if you ever need anything. You know I'm here for you, hon."

"Yes, mother. I will speak with you later."

"Okay, Zacky. I love you."

"Love you too," he said. "Bye."

Zack quickly hung up the phone before his mother had a chance to break into a last minute conversation, which she always did. He stood up to go back downstairs, where the newspaper sat on the coffee table. He took a step.

…and fell.

He cursed. "Pants!"

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

"There's necessary physical criteria? …What? …No, I saw the ad in the paper… Wait, you're a what? …Oh, no, no, no, I ju—no, I'm sorry, I didn't meant to offend y-- … hello? Hello?!" Zack pressed the end button on his phone and buried his face in his hands. He'd been at the job search for hours and the only two that had been available were a male prostitute and some job in which he had to dress up like a hot dog. Neither were appealing, for he had no urge to be infected with an incurable disease nor swelter in the heat of a weenie suit. He furrowed his brows and grabbed his phone again, searching through the contacts. When he found the appropriate number, he called. It merely rang twice.

"Cidney Highwind, how may I help you?"

"…Your name is fucking Cidney?"

"Wha—dammit, Zack! It's an ambiguous name!"

"Cidney is not ambiguous."

"Okay, y'know what, shut up. Whaddya want?"

"You got any good jobs to suggest?" Zack inquired.

"Actually," Cid began. Zack heard the shuffling of some papers.

"Ah ha! Aight, here's one. Got pen an' paper?"

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Zack stood in front of a large house, large enough in fact for a family of four. He looked down at the scrap of paper with the address written on it.

726 Manson Dr.

He looked up at the numbers on the side of the house. It read seven-twenty-six. He took a hesitant step forward. And raised his hand to knock.

"This guy needs mechanical help all the time. Cars, trucks, boats, whatever else you can fuckin' think of. I worked for 'im for a while, till I apparently looked at his girl wrong or some kinda shit like that… whatever. Son of a bitch pays good, and I know you need it."

"You looked at his girlfriend wrong?"

"Hey… She was hot. I couldn't help it. You'll completely understand once ya see 'er."

"Thanks Cid."

"Yeah, don't mention it."

The door swung open to reveal a woman with long, rich brown hair. Zack was almost taken aback by her beauty. She blinked at him, wine red eyes curious.

"Yes?" She asked, her voice like silk.

"Oh, um, I'm here for the car job," Zack said. "I'm Zackary Fair." She smiled.

"Alright. Cloud's been expecting you. My name is Tifa," she told him. "Come in." He grinned in response, stepping into the house. He looked around, surprised by the welcoming feel of the house. Homes that nice usually had icy and unfriendly feelings to them, over furnished with incredibly expensive furniture that was usually tacky beyond belief. However, when he stepped into the small hallway, he was greeted with the smell of some kind of Italian food. He inhaled and then looked to the woman in front of him.

She smiled. "It's pizzoccheri, Italian, in case you didn't know. We just had lunch. Would you like some?"

Zack's stomach grumbled and he felt his cheeks flush.

Tifa laughed, and it sounded like absolute music.

"If it's not too much trouble," Zack said in embarrassment, scratching the back of his neck.

"Of course. Come with me, Cloud's in the kitchen," she said before stepping forwards. When Zack knew she was absolutely certainly positively facing away from him, he looked around shiftily for human presence or cameras and let himself take a look at Tifa from behind. He tried not to chuckle and melt into a puddle of perversion. Before he knew it, she disappeared around the corner. He quickly followed and was greeted by the sight of a large kitchen and a marble bar wrapped around shiny countertops of the same composition. At the far end sat a slender blond man, stabbing at some pasta on a plate, which Zack guessed was pizzoccheri.

"Hey, Cloud, Zack's here," Tifa said, walking over to the stove. Cloud looked up at her, then over to Zack. Suddenly, he felt like shrinking away into a dark abysmal hole somewhere. Cloud's clear blue eyes pierced through him, making him feel almost guilty for looking at Tifa in the wrong way. Zack shuddered against his will. However, after another second, Cloud's expression brightened and his lips curled up.

"Hello," he said. "Come have a seat."

Cloud's warm attitude made Zack's apprehension (and slight fear of the blond) disappear. Zack obliged and walked in silence, sitting on the stool next to Cloud. The man stuck his hand out and Zack took it.

"I'm Cloud Strife."

"So I figured. Zack Fair." He gave Cloud a grin. For a moment, Cloud inspected his face, almost searching for something. He then turned back to his plate and picked up the silver fork, twisting the flat noodles around it. He nodded to Tifa.

"She's Tifa."

She turned from the stove and smiled. "Hi there, we met of course." Zack nodded to her and then looked again at Cloud's plate.

"So. What's in that stuff?" He asked without thinking. Cloud stopped, mid-slurp of a noodle and cast his eyes to Zack.

"The pizzoccheri?" He asked after swallowing a noodle.

"Yeah," he said. "Tifa told me it was Italian."

"Heaven, honestly. That's about the only ingredient," Cloud said, pointing his fork at Zack. Tifa laughed and turned around, giving Zack a plate of the pasta-like food.

"Really, though? The noodles are made with flour and water, and the sauce has cabbage, potatoes, garlic, all kinds of stuff in it," Tifa informed him.

Zack stared at the food for a moment, then promptly took a bite, swallowing almost a bit too much and ended up with butter all over his chin. Nice way to make an appeal to your new employer. Smooth, Fair.

"Uh, could I have a napkin?" He asked. Tifa handed him one.

"Gotcha covered."

He swallowed another, smaller, bite. "Wow. That's really good. You're a really good cook," Zack complimented. Tifa laughed.

"Oh, no, I didn't make it."

Cloud glanced over to Zack. "I did."

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

After the two had finished their food, Tifa washed the dishes and then disappeared somewhere in the extravagant household. That left the two men alone together. Awkwardly as well, Zack thought.

"So, Zack, have you ever worked on a car before?" Cloud inquired. Zack nodded.

"Yep. Always used to work on my dad's cars and stuff when they broke. He always said I should've been an auto-mechanic, but I ended up working on a stiff office job."

Cloud ignored the last part. "Would you like to see the car you'll be working on for me?"

Zack immediately perked up. "Definitely." Cloud grinned at him and hopped off the barstool, shuffling over to the far side of the kitchen and opening a door.

"Shall we?" He said.

"We shall," Zack replied, standing up and anxiously shuffling over to the door, walking through and suddenly… he was in the garage. How handy.

"Well, she's right under here," Cloud said, pointing to the shape of a car under a canvas overthrow. By the shape of it, Zack could immediately tell that it certainly wasn't a modern car. He swallowed and took a few steps towards it, unsure of what would be underneath. Would it be horrible? Cloud joined him, and grinned when Zack's fingers slid across the canvas cover.


Zack merely nodded. Quickly, Cloud pulled off the cover and all Zack could do was gawk.

"It's a--"

"Sixty-two Chevy Impala convertible. Damn."

Cloud grinned. "You know your cars."

"Hell, yeah. This is my favourite car ever. How'd you get her?" Zack inquired, his green eyes running over the chipped and dulled black paint job of the Chevy.

"Bought her off of one of my clients, who needed to pay for some debts. It's not like he could've afforded to get her fixed anyway."

"Clients?" Zack repeated, looking up at Cloud, who stood beside him. "What do you do?"

"I run a law firm," Cloud told him.

Zack nodded. Ah. Makes sense. Now I understand how he's so rich.

"Though I run a business, I've got to say I know little to nothing about cars. Especially old ones like this," Cloud said, looking down at the chipped black paint. "I don't expect you to do a paint job on her, just generally repair her." Zack nodded, walking around to the very front of the car. The chrome silver of the front bumper had faded drastically, leaving it an almost pitiful shade of grey. He kneeled down in front of it, rubbing his thumb across a spot that was particularly dulled.

"So, uh," he began, ducking his head down and looking under the car. "She don't look half bad under here. 'Cept for this one little thing," he mumbled, reaching forwards, dropping to his knees and pushing his head under.

"Yeah, it's got actually quite a few little issues."

Zack hummed in agreement and looked to the best of his ability without light.

"You got a flashlight I can borrow real quick?" He inquired. He heard Cloud shuffle away, rummaging through a mass of objects, then returned, dropping to his knees beside Zack and pushing the flashlight towards him. "Thanks."

When the light flickered on, he saw how incredibly rusty the parts were. His face twisted into a grimace and he groaned. It wasn't gonna be an easy job. At least he had Tifa to entertain him. What the hell was her role in the house anyway?

"Hey, is Tifa your maid or something?" He blurted. Cloud laughed, hard. Zack stayed stationary, waiting for the fit to pass.

"Oh, that's a new one," Cloud said. "No, she's my girlfriend."

"What?!" Zack screeched, pulling his head up, slamming his forehead against the metal.

Oh. Oh, god. There go my hot thoughts about Tifa.

Zack whined both in pain and disappointment.

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"My life sucks," Zack mumbled. There was a roar from the other end of the phone.

"Suck? You don't know suck 'til you're livin' in a box in the slums, y'idiot! Don't know suck 'til ya get an STD from a hooker. Don't know suck 'til--"

"I get it," Zack cried. "Jesus, Cid, I didn't wanna hear about your homeless and disease filled adventures of the past…"

"Hey, I didn't even go into detail. And I ain't gotta single disease!"


Cid growled on the other end of the phone.

"So, what happened at Strife's house? D'ya eyefuck Tifa?"

Zack winced at the even vague memory of Cloud's girlfriend. He shifted on his bed uncomfortably, fingering the seam of his comforter.

"Can we not talk about Tifa? My head already hurts enough," Zack complained, closing his eyes and throwing himself backwards. "I busted my head on the underside of the car when I found out it was Cloud's girl." He pressed the ice pack to his head where he was pretty sure there was a nasty bump forming.

"Hehehe, oh." Cid coughed. "Uh, sorry. How's the job though?"

The dark-haired man sighed and began explaining the rules set by Cloud. No smoking, don't mess with Tifa, stay in the garage and don't be a creeper. It was all basic enough. Zack wouldn't have a hard time, minus the whole Tifa thing. She was a little bit too delicious not to eye. Cloud and Zack had decided on making a schedule over the phone for each week which was good. Zack had explained that he was more than flexible with his schedule, but did not mention the whole 'firing' thing. Luckily, Cloud hadn't inquired, so there really wasn't any need to bring it up.

"Well now ya know what I was talkin' bout with me gettin' fired cause 'a me looking at Tifa. Daaamn, she is so fine. At least you get to look at that ass, yeah?" Cid rambled.

"Not unless I want a wrench thrown at my face, dude," Zack retorted.

Cid grumbled.

"I got another call comin' in – think it's my ma."

Zack snorted. "Your mom's still alive? What is she, a hundred and thirty?"

"Watch it, Fair! Don't go talking about my--"

"I was insulting you and your age, Cid. Not your mother," Zack said, rubbing a hand against the side of his face.

"If my ma wasn't--" Cid was cut off momentarily. "Fuck you, Fair, I'm talkin' to my ma."

"Right. See you."

"Have nice dreams about Tifa's sweeeet, tight little--"

Zack pressed the talk button as quickly as he could.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

AN: WHOO. Sorry it took so long to get that out. I had written most of it already but lagged on the ending, I didn't have anything really good. I'll try and write more, but only if you bitches review! I'm just kidding – you're not bitches – I LOVE YOU PLEASE REVIEW?

- Aeris