Title: Mentor and Student
Author: Calenlass Greenleaf
Disclaimer: In no way do I own FFVII. That's why I write fanfiction.
Spoilers: CC and FFVII in general.
Warnings: Mild swearing, angst, violence, etc. Some Zaerith. No yaoi/yuri/smut.
Timeframe: Pre-CC and CC, from the day they meet to the day they part.
Summary: Series of oneshots on the relationship between Angeal and Zack.
A/N: I use military (24-hour) time for this series.
A/N #2: Thoughts are in italics, and ":---:" indicate a change in POV.
A/N #3: I'm picky. I tend to base all my stories on the original Japanese, relying on fansubs and the like. Why? There are slight differences between the Japanese and the dubs; the voice actors use different inflections, figure of speeches, and I will admit I liked the original better. So…Zack here isn't as cocky-sounding as the American Zack.
Many thanks go to Silent Tweak for the Crisis Core translations and for videos— http : // www . silenttweak . net / index . php (copy and paste into browser, and then remove all spaces).
Many thanks also go to TheLifestream Dot Net for FFVII information and translations.
Characters: Angeal and Zack. Cameos from Genesis, Kunsel, and Sephiroth (because I couldn't resist).
Timeframe: [ μ ] - εуλ 1998; Pre-CC
Rating: PG for this one.
Summary: The meeting of Angeal and Zack, and how Zack became Angeal's student.
Mentor and Student: 01
"Another one for you, 'Geal."
He easily caught the manila envelope without bothering to look up.
"What is that—number fifteen?"
"Number nineteen," he corrected, opening it and pulling out various documents.
"Are you not being too…demanding?" His companion leaned back in his chair. "One of the first five or so sounded all right…"
"I called up one of his peers yesterday. And one of his teachers." He rubbed his eyes.
"Ah. And exactly what sort of dishonorable thing did he commit?"
"Genesis, please." Angeal gave him a look.
"I still think you are too particular." Genesis dropped a huge stack of files into a box without looking. "You're not going to find a perfect candidate."
"But none of them sound serious about what they're doing." He counted off on his fingers. "One said he was hoping to be an asset to Shinra. Another said he was doing it for the fame. Another said it was for glory. Another claimed he wanted to surpass 'the General.' Still another said he was doing this all for a dare. The other reasons are mostly the same, one after another." A frustrated look crossed his face. "Petty reasons, if you ask me."
"Well, then what do you want to see?"
Angeal crossed his arms and stared out the window. "They're all asking what they want Shinra to do for them, but they're not asking what they can do for Shinra."
Genesis chuckled. "Uh, I don't think I even considered that when we were applying for SOLDIER and had to answer that three-page thing."
"No, they just took one look at your eloquent writing and were completely blown away by your expressiveness," he replied, a sarcastic tone creeping into his voice.
"Coming from you, that hurts."
"Sorry." Angeal rubbed the bridge of his nose. "It's just been a very long week."
"Dochira." He waved the apology away. "A week of sitting in this stuffy office, you mean." Genesis looked at the other large pile on his desk, which was still waiting to be read and signed. "But, how is Candidate Number Nineteen?"
"I'm getting to it." He studied the application form.
Name: Zack Fair
Student ID#: 83746
Date of Birth: August 19, 1985
Place of Birth: Gongaga
Blood Type: O
Year Applied to Shinra: 1997
Year Applied for SOLDIER Third Class: 1999
Accepted into SOLDIER Third Class? Yes
He skimmed over the lists of test scores, performance scores, and achievements, spending more time on the comments of the teachers.
"Mm." He furrowed his brow. "Though he apparently a short attention span and has a tendency to be hyperactive…and he's rather young for a Third Class. Only fourteen."
"Hah." Genesis picked up a book, pausing to blow gently at the cover before opening it. "You'll have your hands full if you choose him, then."
"Maybe." Angeal glanced at the picture that had fallen out. Zack Fair was tall and strongly-built, with spiky black hair and bright violet-blue eyes. But what stood out the most was the broad grin that seemed to say 'you can trust me.'
I hope so.
"What do you think, Genesis?" He tossed the envelope over to his friend.
"Mm…" He ran his finger down the page. "Zack Fair? Odd name. One would think his parents would give him a proper one. I mean, 'Zack.' It doesn't look professional at all."
"Maybe he cut it short when he applied?"
"Possibly." Genesis shrugged and looked up. "Did you see his personal statement?"
"Not yet. What did he say?"
'I didn't join Shinra just to become another army grunt. I joined because I know I can make it to the top, and because I want to become a hero that people can look up to as a role model. I want to join the mentorship program because I feel that I can accomplish my goal by learning under the best that Shinra has to offer.' He squinted. "Atrocious handwriting, by the way, but I think he fits your criteria."
"Let me see." He took the paper and read it for himself. Never mind the poor handwriting; that could be corrected. What mattered more were the words themselves.
'…I joined…because I want to become a hero…'
A little overambitious, but…at least he has dreams.
He picked up his phone and speed-dialed his secretary. "I'm setting an appointment at eleven tomorrow for an interview with SOLDIER Third Class Zack Fair."
"You're not calling up his friends? Not checking with his teachers?" Genesis asked when he ended his call.
"I don't feel the need to," Angeal replied, looking through the rest application forms and finding them to be ordinary. "I liked what he said."
"One of these days, your dreams and pride thing will be the death of you."
"I wouldn't be afraid to die that sort of death."
Genesis turned back to his book. "I didn't think you would be."
"What do you mean by that?"
A glance told him that Genesis had his nose buried in LOVELESS. Angeal hid a chuckle and returned to his work.
And LOVELESS will be the death of you…
He couldn't believe it.
A note was in his hands, telling him to meet with the SOLDIER First Class Angeal Hewley at eleven for an interview.
He looked up as one of his roommates gave him a friendly smack on the arm.
"Hey." He returned the punch, offering a lopsided smile.
"So what was that call all about?" Kunsel looked over his shoulder.
"Uh…I'm meeting Angeal Hewley today…at eleven."
"Yep." He nervously scratched the back of his head. "I didn't really expect this. I mean," he waved the note in the air. "When the notice went up that he was willing to enter the mentorship program, there were so many people who wanted him as their mentor that I didn't think I had a chance."
"I'm sure you do fine," Kunsel told him, "As long as you don't jump around the room like some ADHD kid."
"Lighten up, will you?" His fellow Third Class poked him in the side. "Really, you got this chance, so you give it your best shot." He grinned. "'Sides, you deserve it."
"I hope so," he muttered, allowing Kunsel to drag him down the hallway.
Why was he so nervous?
He had seen Lieutenant General Angeal Hewley more than once on occasion, and had always admired him. It wasn't the same type of admiration that he had for General Sephiroth, which was something akin to awe, but it was Angeal's background and his character that he admired. To be mentored by him would be…unbelievable, to say the least. It was known he had no tolerance for dishonesty and laziness, but he was always quick to point out a person's qualities.
Angeal, however, wasn't perfect. Zack had heard all the rumors.
'Gaia, he's scary. He's not all 'holier-than-thou' like Sephiroth, and neither is he condescending like Genesis, but he scares me in a different way.'
'Make Sephiroth mad, and he'll skewer you with his sword. Make Genesis mad, and he'll burn your ears with LOVELESS and turn you into charcoal. Make Angeal mad…and you're as good as dead.'
Perhaps it was all hearsay, but it worried him. Rumors always started with some amount of truth, anyway.
What would he say about me? What if he takes one look at me and decides I'm not good enough?
Guess I'll have to make sure that won't happen.
I'm Zack Fair, from Gongaga. I already got this far, and I won't let anything stop me from getting into First.
"Zack, are you listening?"
"Yeah," he replied, "go on." He glanced at a clock at the end the hallway.
Two more hours.
"I don't know, Seph." He glanced at the clock. "If this interview goes through, I'll have less free time."
"For the mentorship program."
"Ah." The sound of rustling papers reached his ears. "Good luck with that, then. Genesis told me that he might be a handful."
"I haven't even met him yet." Still, he grinned. "I'm not one to form opinions at first sight, unlike certain people."
"Hn. That's what makes you Angeal."
"Thanks for the luck, though."
"Call me when you're through. We'll be waiting for you." Click.
Angeal tucked his cellphone in his pocket, shaking his head even as he allowed himself a small grin. Some days, he wondered if Sephiroth hated phones. Or perhaps it was just his preference to talk face-to-face. Maybe a combination of both.
The phone on his desk rang, and he picked it up.
"Zack Fair is here."
"Send him in."
The door opened after a minute, and he was satisfied to see that he was punctual.
"Zack Fair, SOLDIER Third Class, reporting." He saluted and stood to attention. "Sir," he hastily added.
"At ease," Angeal replied, eyes taking in the boy. He let a few seconds pass, watching as Zack shifted his arms behind his back, looking as if he wanted very much to walk around the room instead of stand still.
"Tell me again, Zackary," he began, "Why you joined SOLDIER."
"To be a hero."
"For the glory?"
"Nope." Those bright blue eyes met his, without faltering. "Well, it would be nice, but it's not necessary."
"Because being a hero doesn't mean glory. It means hard work, without failure, because if I fail, then people will know. It's like…like…" He reached up to scratch the back of his head. "Like a sort of trust between a hero and those that respect him."
"And you believe you can keep that trust."
"I'll do my best to do that, sir." He grinned. "I don't like letting people down."
Angeal crossed his arms. "All right, then. Let's discuss your weak points." He glanced at the paper on his desk. "What are the areas you think you can work on, Zackary?"
"I've been told that I fidget too much. That I have a short attention span. That I'm overenthusiastic."
"And what do you make of these comments?"
"Well…I wish they weren't true." He offered a sheepish smile. "But whenever I do things, I put a one-hundred percent effort into doing them. I don't do things half-a—" Zack broke off, flushing. "I mean, I don't do things half-heartedly."
"Do you think that with time, you can break yourself of the fidgeting?" Angeal eyed they boy's twitching fingers.
"Ah…maybe." The twitching stopped.
He uncrossed one of his arms, propping his chin on the back of his hand and leaning forward. Zack still held his gaze, trying his hardest not to move anything except his eyes.
You remind me a puppy. I can see a lot of uncontained energy in your face. But whenever you give me your attention, you give me your full attention. Your mind doesn't wander off, and your answers to my questions aren't false sounding.
"A few more questions, Zackary, and then I'll make my decision."
"Yes, sir, but…"
"My name is just Zack," he said, "It's not Zackary, Zachariah, Isaac, or anything that sounds like Zack." He shrugged with one shoulder. "My parents couldn't decide whether my name should be Zachariah or Isaac, so they chose Zack."
So it wasn't a nickname, as he had originally assumed. Angeal considered this information and looked at the boy. It made sense, actually. Zack was an informal name, and Zack Fair was an informal person. The easy way he smiled only added to that.
"Very well. Zack, then," he chose his words carefully, "are you loyal to Shinra?"
"Would you give Shinra priority over your own life?"
He went through the list of questions that Shinra required him to ask. Zack answered confidently, with little hesitation. Finally, Angeal finished, and began his personal list of questions. Genesis, who had seen the list, had been aghast. 'By the Goddess, Angeal, you're going to scare him away!' he had chided.
'This is the only way I can ensure that we can work together as a team,' he had answered.
'It's either this, or I'll wait until next year.'
Looking at Zack, he didn't think he would scare this one away. Somehow, he had the feeling that if he sent him away, he would only come back.
He jumped into his question. "Zack Fair, let's say that I accept you as my student," he began, "and one day, I disagree with Shinra."
"But you wouldn—"
"This is just a scenario," he interrupted. "So I disagree with Shinra. Now, what would you do?" Angeal held up three fingers. "You have three choices: Desert with me, try to reform me, or terminate me."
He hesitated. "Is there a right or wrong answer to this, sir?"
"No." He shook his head. "I just want your opinion."
"Tough question," Zack once again began fidgeting. "I think I would try to reform you."
"All right." Angeal went on. "And what if that didn't work? What if Shinra then told you to terminate me?" He gazed intently at the boy standing in front of him. "Would you obey?"
"I—" For the first time since entering his office, Zack looked unsettled. He scratched the back of his head, bit on his lip, and let his eyes dart around the room. "I, uh, can't refuse?"
"Zack, if you refuse, you yourself will be terminated." He wasn't going to tell him that only Sephiroth had the power to refuse orders. It wouldn't do any good if that word got out among all the students. "What would your decision be?"
The room grew quiet. Too quiet. Zack even stopped moving. He simple stood there, frowning in consternation.
Don't disappoint me, puppy. You've already done very well. But I have to be sure that you're the one. Angeal said silently, watching him.
"Sir, I—I" He visibly swallowed. "I said I was loyal Shinra, and I intend to stay that way unless Shinra is one day in the wrong and is proven wrong."
"So you would choose to terminate me."
"Yeah." Zack squared his shoulders and drew a shaky-sounding breath. "By all means, I would try to bring you back, but if I couldn't, then I would do as my superiors order." He let out a nervous chuckle. "Unless Shinra was totally wrong. Then maybe I'd follow you."
"No second thoughts on that?"
"I won't go back on my word."
Angeal waited for a heartbeat for he relaxed; the boy's resolve was strong, and he had no more doubts. He held out his hand. "You can drop the formalities now, Zack." He smiled. "Congratulations."
"Wait—what?" His mouth dropped open. "I passed?" He pumped a fist. "Yes! Yes, yes, yes! I did it!"
Amused, he watched as the Third Class celebrated for a few moments. "Ahem."
"Oh, sorry, sir." He took Angeal's proffered hand and shook it, still grinning like a little boy as he sat down. "I thought I wouldn't make it."
"You qualified for Shinra's standards. You had to qualify for my standards," he told him.
"What if Shinra's and your standards are the same?"
"There would be less people applying for SOLDIER, but the percentage of those fully committed to their work would be greater."
"I'm honored, sir."
"I can call you that anytime?"
"Well, thanks, Angeal." Zack flashed another grin. "I won't let you down." He threw a sloppy salute, using two fingers.
"Hn." He snorted. If the boy had a tail, he would be wagging it. "I'm sure you won't."
As he reached into his drawer to find a pen, he inwardly smiled. Finally, he had found someone worthy to be his student. Someone who could understand his opinion on dreams and pride.
Angeal had accepted him.
Zack could barely keep the grin from his face after he had left Angeal's office. In his hands were a new schedule and keycard. His schedule was mostly the same; he still had classes, still had training. But the class and training time were cut in half; the other half would be spent with his mentor. The keycard allowed him access to some areas that were off-limits to Third Class SOLDIERs, in case Angeal needed his assistance for something.
I'm going to be in First Class in two years, he told himself. Two years, and he would be a hero. Maybe even the youngest First Class SOLDIER next to Sephiroth (who was rumored to have become a First Class at age fourteen)
He whistled in the empty hallway. That was another privilege—his curfew was at 2200 instead of 2100.
But, seriously, Angeal's got really, really high standards. His steps slowed as he remembered the last few questions. I really thought that I was gonna disappoint him and get kicked out. I guess this what they mean when they said he's scary in a different way from Genesis and Sephiroth.
Scary or not, he had wanted this opportunity, and now that he had gotten it, he had to give it his all.
I really meant what I said back there. He clenched his fists and held his head up a little higher. About being a hero, and being loyal.
"So, in the end, Mr. Dreams-and-Pride picked the koinu." Genesis waved a hand towards Angeal. "The spiky-haired, blue-eyed, fourteen-year-old."
"Koinu?" Sephiroth raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, Zack Fair the Puppy." He poured himself another glass of wine. "I looked up some of his files, and he really is like a puppy. All jumpy and easy-to-please. I even found a video of him fighting one of those simulation training monsters."
"Did you?" Angeal looked up from his book. The three of them were at his quarters; it was a Friday and they would have the weekend free. "What did you think of him?"
"He has talent," Genesis admitted, blowing his hair out of his face before drinking, "his fighting style resembles yours a bit, Jīru. All hack and slash. Maybe he has a giant sword in mind, like you. However, in the end, he grew careless. He didn't bother checking to see if all the enemies were down."
"By down you mean completely decapitated?" Sephiroth asked as he pushed his glass towards Genesis for a refill. "So they—"
"Exactly. Two were only injured. He didn't die, though."
"I'll have to speak to him about that." Angeal frowned; he had forgotten to check the video files. "Either he was overconfident, or he was foolish."
"Having second thoughts?"
"No." He would never have second thoughts on this. "Just…planning."
"You'll turn this puppy into one of Shinra's guard dogs soon, at this rate."
"Seph…we're not Shinra's guard dogs."
"Try looking at everything from the top, and you'll understand." He drained his glass without blinking. "The old glory days are ending. Pretty soon, the war with Wutai will be over, and we'll just be guard dogs and poster boys." He glanced at Genesis. "And people will have fewer reasons to learn Wutainese."
"I resent that comment, Sephiroth."
"Hn." The silver-haired man merely shrugged at this. "Take my word for it."
As Genesis launched into a discourse on the beauty of the Wutainese language, Angeal tuned it out, turning a page in his book.
I'm thinking it's overconfidence. He's not foolish, just a little brash.
While Sephiroth calmly countered Genesis' remarks, he reached for his laptop and began typing out an exact schedule for what he would teach Zack.
'I won't let you down.'
He pictured that wide grin and the sparkling eyes.
I know you won't. Because you have dreams…and pride.
"Do you really think that he can become a SOLDIER First Class, Angeal?" Sephiroth was asking him.
He looked up, eyes meeting that of his friends'.
A/N: The line "They're all asking what they want Shinra to do for them, but they're not asking what they can do for Shinra" was inspired from a line in Little House in the Woods' story "Minerva's Gift": (Act One, Scene III) "…Too immature to understand that Shinra was not about fame and glory, but selfless, silent sacrifice, Cloud had focused on what he wanted from Shinra, rather than what he could achieve for others…"
A/N #2: Zack's birthday is never given (we are only told the year), but since Cloud had two birthdays (due to the English mistranslation), Aug. 11 and Aug. 19, I decided to pick Aug. 19 as his birthday. It's possible, considering how Cloud's memories were messed up and he might have forgotten his own birthday.
On Zack Fair's name:
Zack in CC is always referred to as "Zack." Even Lazard and Sephiroth call him Zack. If his real name were "Zachary," "Isaac," etc, wouldn't his superiors refer to him by his "full" name instead of a nickname?
That was the first thing that inspired me to write this story.
Japanese [Wutainese] Translations:
Dochira – Whatever
Irasshaimase – According to Silent Tweak, "A greeting commonly used in Japanese for greeting someone [;]" "however, it's more of just a saying, or consider it as Zack's warcry."
Koinu – puppy
Jīru – Part of Angeal's name: Anjīru