I really hate it when the first few chapters are just like BAM. THEY CLICKED. Two chapters later: BAM. NOW THEY ARE IN LOVE. Like wow, that must have been hard to write. It's silly and unrealistic, especially if those people kill for a living. I.E. Zack and Evie. My opinion though.

I've been spitting these out for you as a sort of balm to apologize for my terrible behavior considering how long I've been working on this rewrite. These chapters are a way of saying that I'm terribly sorry, and that for those of you that still read and review. Thank you. I adore your very existence.

Words: 3595


(Day Five)

"Damnit, that smarts," I said with a growl. Zack paid me no mind his hands pulling needles from my body. I sighed in relief as the last one left my body, and motioned for him to move so I could remove his.

"Just do it quick. As quick as you can," said Zack with a serious face. I nodded, ripping the barbs from his arm and side as fast as I could manage.

"Little bastard is pretty dangerous, if you're not as sturdy as us," I added as I placed the last spike on top of the pile we had created. He smiled and my heart filled with…something. He was smiling at me. My thoughts quickly lost themselves, only because I had nothing else to focus on. If I had something to do or say I wouldn't be so infinitely lost inside my own head.

"Yeah," He began, "How are you feeling?" His hand reached up, touching my arm with a gloved thumb rubbing me. I swallowed hard and nodded before actually realizing that it wasn't much of a yes or no question.

"'M fine," my head bobbed, nodding as I spoke. Another smile came from him as he stood up and put a hand out for me to take. I accepted it silently, enjoying the feeling of his gloved hand holding my smaller one. Unfortunately, I had nothing witty to say as we stood smiling at each other again. Too distracted by his pearly teeth and charming features, I didn't notice how his hand slid up from my hand tracing a ghost trail towards my body. It was silent. Our soft breathing was the only thing hitting our sensitive hearing. The moment was one in a million…

"You?" I asked softly. Another smile crossed his lips, causing me to smile harder. I couldn't help but smile at his smile.

"Couldn't be better," he whispered, as my eyes roamed his features, from his scar to his spiky black hair. For a moment an image of the old Zack flew across my vision and all I could think of was how well he turned out. How strong the two of us had become, in so many ways. He pulled one of his hands away from me and removed the glove to bring it up to my face.

His thumb rubbed at my cheek, which confused me, "Is there something on my face?" He grinned and shook his head. "Are you lying to me?" He repeated his actions and I giggled pushing him away from me a bit. "You're lying! What's on my face? You're a butt! Sitting here, staring at it and not saying anything." I began to rub at my cheek furiously, trying to get whatever was on my face, off. Once I stopped in hopes that it was gone I turned at the sound of his laughter.

"Honestly, Eves there is nothing on your face. You're going to rub your own face off." I frowned and smacked his arm before calling him a jerk and leaving the mansion. He followed good-naturedly, laughing the whole time as he did so.

"It's your own fault for not believing me in the first place," he added as he walked next to me. A part of me wanted to argue with him, but my logical thoughts told me he was right. Why would Zack lie to me in the first place? So I shrugged and kept walking, my hand still rubbing at my cheek.

Cloud walked up to the two of us as we came into the town square. I wondered for a moment how I even knew it was him with the helmet on his head. I realized, between his lips and the way he walked I knew it was him. Kind of weird if you thought about it… I shook it off and muttered something about being in my room.

Once in the safety of my hotel room I rubbed at my cheek one last time. My hands ripped at my gloves quickly; at the same time my legs walked towards the bathroom. When I was in the bathroom I looked over my face a few times, noticing no mark, but instead my face was red from my rubbing it. I sighed softly, beginning to remove the weight on my shoulders, literally.

When I was finally down to my basic uniform, a knock sounded. I moved my shoulder in its socket a few times previous to me opening the door. I was greeting by Zack, who was smiling.

"Didn't I tell you?" he said quickly, entering my room in a matter of seconds. I nodded just once. It was enough for another one of his charming grins to cross his features.

"Right, so why are you in here?" I asked, my boots thudding as I walked around the room. I found distraction in doing meaningless things I'd never do unless someone was in my living space. Like picking things up and moving them somewhere else.

"It's not nearly as late as you might think it is Evie. Cloud is off visiting his mom for a little and I wanted to check up on you," I gave him a confused expression.

"There's not much to check up on Zack. No fiends; so go do some squats." He took this as an invitation to proceed to do squats in my room. I sighed ignoring it until I ran out of things to do; the problem was that Zack could practically do squats all day. He wasn't the champion for nothing back in Midgar. I walked to my bed looking for something to do and opting to sit down on it instead wondering what to say.

"It's going to be a week soon, think Sephiroth is gonna wrap up his research and let us head back to Midgar?"

"I dunno… You gonna go with him if he leaves?" Zack stopped doing squats to look at me, waiting for an answer.

"I don't know if I would," I said, my attention turning to my long fingers all of a sudden. "I don't know if I'd be okay with leaving you and Cloud behind and running off with Sephiroth. I don't think Sephiroth would want me to go with him either. He's more of the loner type. He'd probably prefer if I stayed and took his place like I'm supposed to. He'd think it wise to keep me as General because of all the shit I've seen and been through. Especially like with him." I was afraid of the silence my ears were greeted with. "I'd keep in contact with him if I could, but I think I'll stay in SOLDIER. Eventually the program will gain its worth back, people will come flocking to be SOLDIERs. You and I will be the only first class SOLDIERs, meant to train new SOLDIERs to take our place one day." I shrugged for a moment and he still said nothing.

There was a moment as I sat there that I was utterly afraid of his response to what I had to say. I considered for a moment if he was going to leave. My eyes flicked up to his matching pair and I was scared, my heart thudding violently to see his eyes on the ground. My jaw clenched, my fists curled up, I bit my own lip and my eyebrows furrowed. My throat started to tighten as the seconds ticked by.

"I thought about it," he started. "I considered leaving, maybe not with Sephiroth, but just to leave. To get away from all the responsibility, death, and despair we always seem to face. Eventually we're going to want to stop doing this. We're not going to be this young for the rest of our lives.

"Zack, SOLDIER is a commitment. As far as I recall, a lifelong commitment. You don't just leave SOLDIER. Genesis tried, look how that went." I said pointing towards the window with my hand.

"We're not going to start falling apart like he is though. You can't just kill and fight your whole life and be happy about that."

"This has nothing to do with happiness Zack. They would probably kill us before just letting us up and leave," I remarked shaking my head a little with an incredulous look on my face. "I'm not happy about everything I've experienced; everything I've done, or saw, or heard, or was a part of." I was standing I noticed. Somewhere along the line I had stood up and as I looked at Zack who stared at me I turned my gaze away unable to hold it.

"You don't know that Eves," he whispered, my hypersensitive hearing his words.

I shook my head, my hair tickling my upper arms, "No. I don't, but when Genesis left we were ordered to find him. The same with Angeal. Sephiroth let it slide, but we were supposed to kill them for "abandoning". You can only assume that they would do that to us, and Sephiroth. Sephiroth could probably leave and they would never find a trace of him. Not to say that they wouldn't look for him…" I sighed; I was getting worked up about the subject. For no real good reason. Zack had remained silent. "I joined SOLDIER for a reason, Zack."

Zack asked, "What is it… your reason?" I froze. My eyes widened slowly as I stared at him from across my bedroom. A voice in the back of my head reminding me that I had nothing important to do and nowhere that I could hide from Zack. We were on a mission in Nibelheim, in an inn room. I had never told Zack. Ever. I mentioned it to him. I hinted at what it might be a few times, but I never really told him. I certainly didn't want to tell him. I didn't want to tell anyone. It was a secret for a reason. My blue eyes fell and then returned to his eyes. They were so similar to mine, but there were little differences. Differences most didn't notice.

As my thoughts got away from me I realized Zack was still expecting an answer from me. I simply shook my head, not wanting to answer. He seemed to almost take offense to this. His form straightening suddenly. Then I felt it, a tension. A thick tension now fell between us, like all the progress we had made today just fell apart at the seams.

Progress? What am I even talking about? My heart felt heavy suddenly. My eyebrows furrowing at the feeling growing in me. A feeling that made me want to cry. An unbearable emotional pain. I took a soft shaky breath, but Zack seem to be lost. I bit my lip trying to contain whatever feeling was bubbling up in me. What was happening to me? Since when did I get worked up so easily?

Now I was angry and upset. The room was still silent, and Zack's gaze didn't even seem like it was on me. My head fell, my hair creating a curtain around my face. This was ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous.

And embarrassing. Don't forget that part, my thoughts made me roll my eyes. Zack's next words surprised me.

"You don't have to tell me Evie," I felt my breath hitch and it was as my eyes came to meet his did he walk over to where I was standing. I was shocked, immobilized by his understanding. His eyes searched mine as I stared at him. I was never able to read people's eyes or emotions. I couldn't do it. When I finally came back to myself I saw his small smile. "Everyone has things they don't want to share with other people. Even if I AM your best friend." His tone was joking, and something in my heart seemed to melt at this.

He not only managed to banish my fears, but make me feel better. I wanted to fall into his arms and hold him until I was too tired to stand anymore. This 'being in love' thing was making me the sappiest person ever, but it was those little things about him the made it so easy. My shoulders fell in defeat, "One day. I promise I'll tell you."

"Your hair, it gets wavy as it gets longer?" My eyebrows rose and I glanced down towards my hair and nodded.

"Yeah, It gets in the way too much for fighting so It can never get too long, but it does get wavy as it grows." His bare hands rose to touch it.

"I like it wavy and long, it suits you." My eyes flicked from his hands to his eyes, my throat squeezing and drying at the look on his face. What was he trying to do kill me with a look? As if reading my thoughts his gaze dropped, "You eat anything today?"

I could feel a laugh escape my lips at this, "Not that I recall really." I hadn't been able to eat much lately. My sadness had decreased my appetite. My crying, confusing, and all of these emotions hindering my ability to eat at all during the past few days. His smile widened at this and in my confusing of his happiness mine fell a little.

"If you think I'm leaving this room, it's not happening," I remarked quickly. It was meant to be a firm statement, but within five minutes we were leaving the hotel in what we considered casual clothing for SOLDIERs. Our Armor, swords and gloves gone.

After greeting and chatting with some of the town's people we managed to get a seat in the bar where we order some food. Zack offering to pay for it, and I having forgot my wallet, was forced to consent. This was simple with Zack. Eating and chatting with such perfected ease that it just reminded me how well we got along. How lovely we seemed to fit together.

We managed to get through the night with comfort. Hardly anyone bothered us; having gotten their fill of photos and autographs, but many of the townsfolk greeted us or chatted with us briefly. The night was normal, or as normal as it got for us. It reminded me of the date we went on of sorts back when I had a school uniform.

The smile on my features was hard to get rid of, Zack made it so easy to be happy. He was funny, charming, humble, and very different from the old Zack. As he talked, I ran my stare over his face and his body. He stopped talking having asked me a question I didn't hear because I was too entranced by handsome he was.

"Eves?" I blinked quickly my gaze returning to blue eyes so similar to my own. I smiled softly.

"Hm?"

"You okay?" I nodded slowly.

"Thinking," I mumbled. "That's all." This seemed to peak his interest.

"What about?" He pulled his elbows onto the table and watched me.

"Us. Before. We're so different than we were some months ago. I used to be so silly and playful and loud," I rambled looking around the establishment we were in. I thought about the past year and it was a flurry of different memories. So many events happened in our lives so quickly. I was nothing like I was before; I was so much more emotional now. It was irritating really. I used to never have this problem.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. I don't think it's a bad thing," I shrugged my hand rising to touch my earrings. The gift for my 16th birthday from Zack. Then the pendant I got from Sephiroth was around my neck, where it always was. A reminder of that night and of how close I had gotten to Sephiroth. He gave me a birthday present…or rather more than one. Instead of blushing at the thought, like I used to I smirked and shook my head instead.

When my gaze fell back on Zack he was smiling. His hand reached out to touch my earring, reminding me of a time I had done the very same to him. I was silent, only watching him. His arm fell away finally and I smiled gently, turning my gaze to my drink. My eyes scanned the room, expecting to see Josh still, but nothing. Not since the incident. I pursed my lips a bit, but tried to keep from making it obvious as to where my thoughts went.

"Do we have patrols for tomorrow?" Zack asked; I shrugged for a moment.

"We can take patrols away for tomorrow; things have been quiet like they're supposed to be in this small town. There would be no point. We'll patrol on the day after; I'm still hoping to hear word from Sephiroth about what we're doing here. We've been here for nearly a week. There's no Genesis since Sephiroth rejected him. There are no copies running around. The creatures inside the Reactor haven't broken out, and we fixed whatever was wrong with the reactor anyways." Zack agreed with me easily.

"You'd make a good General Eves. Despite your disadvantage." I flicked an eyebrow in question to his words. "You're a girl Eves. How many Generals are girls? No one would take you seriously." For some odd reason I took instant offence to his words.

"No, maybe not, but certainly the fact that I've been in SOLDIER for years should at least defend the justification. On top of the fact that after Sephiroth, Chain of Command dictates that I'm next. If it was supposes to be some guy taking my place than why not make him Sephiroth's Second in Command?"

"Maybe Sephiroth insisted that you be his second," supplied Zack.

"Yeah, with good reason. Why would Shinra not listen to him? The man has been a General for years now. I've been his student for years. I have no disadvantage Zack. It's this way because I've earned it. If some infantryman or some SOLDIER has a problem with it they can say so to me and I'll put them in their place. I've never had to deal with disobedience. My reputation precedes me. With justification." I sat back in my seat, my eyebrows furrowed in anger. He raised his hands up in surrender. I crossed my arms and shrugged in response. My mood taking a turn for the worse irritably.

I wondered where that even came from. Zack normally wouldn't say things to undermine my position. He seemed to be thinking about something, but I had no interest in what it might be considering it probably had to do with the conversation we just had. I shook my head a little in disbelief, my hair tickling my exposed arms.

It was silent between us and I glanced at my nails, they were long, and more or less healthy looking. They were strong, sturdy things that I tried to keep trim as often as I could because they would just hurt if I didn't, but occasionally they would rip or tear.

They naturally seemed to take care of themselves, but once every so often I would cut them after getting out of the shower. It was one of the only things I had to do. With the SOLDIER procedure, I was hairless everywhere except on my head. I was a fighter, so I ever really had to do any make up, or fancy hairstyles. I wore gloves and massive boots. There is no need for nail polish. I knew of those things, but never had to worry about them. Times like now I wondered what I would do when I wasn't in SOLDIER anymore. I'd have to have style, and wear somewhat normal clothing.

A yawn fell from my lips, and I pulled my phone out to see what time it was. It wasn't terribly late. Zack seemed to be immersed in his thoughts so I stood, going to leave.

"Wait," said Zack suddenly. I glanced down at him confused. "Where are you going?"

"Not sure, bed maybe. I didn't want to disturb you," He shook his head and threw some Gil down before walking me out.

Once outside he continued, "You don't have to worry about bothering me Evie, it's never any bother. I promise."

My shoulders shrugged and my enhanced eyesight took in the low lighting and adjusted quickly as I looked around the small town. It was quiet as it always was. Without service, my phone couldn't be a form of saving myself and I certainly had no one to call.

I couldn't believe I was saying it, but I missed Midgar. I missed having something to do and people to always talk to. Even if my demons haunted me there. Aerith… I wouldn't be able to look her in the eye again. Not knowing how I felt about Zack. Curiously I wondered what was even going on between them. The two of us stood outside for a moment before he led the way towards the water tower.

He stopped walking and I could feel the awkward fall over us. I wasn't sure what to say for once. Aerith came back to my thoughts.

"Hey Zack," I started suddenly. He looked up at me, and I froze knowing I was about to ask about him and Aerith. But now that I had said something I wanted to back out of it. Nothing else came to mind fast enough. "Are you and Aerith alright?"