A/N: Part three. I'm trying to add a bit more 'meat' to my writing. Behold, the might paragraph! As always, subject to revision. Also, I have reviews for 'chapter 3', so I must have added it, but if that's so...where the hell did it go? o.O
Pairings: Angeal x Zack, Sephiroth x Cloud, Genesis x Aerith.
Disclaimer: I don't own it. Oh, the things I could do…
Part Three: Door Dings
-The only common denominator between an elevator and a vase.-
Angeal Hewley was a living legend. He was a brilliant tactician, a great leader, and a powerful warrior. Shinra plastered his face all over every event they possibly could. Which is how cadet first class Zackary Fair had obtained the little naked picture he kept hidden in one of the horrendously mind numbing tactics books that no one in any cadet class ever was likely to have cracked. For the sake of security, he kept that under his pillow and informed anyone that asked that he was the unfortunate victim of spinal problems.
He'd managed to coax Reno, one of his little Turk 'buddies', into getting the sketch for him based off of one of his favorite photos of the general. Reno's 'source' had refused to work from anything but a proper image, so press footage was a no go. The entire affair, while worth it, was hugely embarassing. Zack had to dig for enough dirt to keep Reno from narking on him to any interested ears.
In summary, Zack was head over heels, possibly maybe gaga over Angeal Hewley. His CO, his noble leader, and hopefully, one day, his mentor.
And now the man wanted him to help out with his kids. Zack didn't know whether he should sob for joy or explode from nerves. Then again... Whenever he thought about those kids, and their mother dumping them off the way she had...it made his stomach hurt, full of some strange mix of sadness, confusion, and anxiety. He couldn't come up with anger, no. They weren't his, and it wasn't his place.
Zack closed his eyes, letting his imagination run wild. He could see, so vividly, images of Angeal's smiling face, images of Angeal cooking...then, suddenly, images of Cloud, tugging on Zack's hand, beaming up at him.
Maybe they could be.
That was one of the best nights of sleep Zack ever had.
The night was, unfortunately, interrupted by the crude blaring of his standard-issue black cell. The sleek little thing had seemed like a killer perk at first, but it became quickly apparent that the boys in R&D had engineered the damn things to do deep and lasting damage to the psyche of every cadet ever to enter Shinra's ranks.
Generally speaking, after about a week of having one in issue, the average troop would start hearing phantom cell shrieks. Older soldiers joked about it, but it was clear that the paranoia was pretty much universal.
Zack made a little sobbing noise, now halfway off of his bed, simultaneously feeling about for his phone and holding himself up off the floor.
Various muffled growls and curses and a 'FUCK YOU, JACKWUSS!' came from the rooms bordering on his own before he finally managed to find it, flip it open, and press it in the general vicinity of his ear.
"Why, G-d, why?"
"You know, I've been asking myself the same question since about 0120." The voice on the other end was a familiar one, but the low, gravelly sleep-deprived tone was a nice new touch. Almost made up for being woken up at AAAAAAAH!-o-clock in the morning. Zack felt himself stiffen, despite the tired ache throughout his body.
"...General Hewley?" He mumbled, "Again?"
"'Again' what, Fair? I haven't been to sleep. It's only been an hour. Are you crying?"
"Sir, yes, sir." Zack sobbed before pulling himself together, suddenly much more awake once he realized he'd just admitted to acting like a (quote), 'whiner baby' to his C.O. , "Shit. I mean no. Dammit. What time...?"
He looked at the clock, regarding the blaring red '2:07' with trepidation, "I have a running course in the morning. I'm gonna pass out in, like, five different languages. How did you even get this number?"
"I looked in the cadet directory. And I can excuse you—" Angeal's voice broke off as a child-like wail took up in the background.
"Holy-! Was that Cloud?" Zack nearly threw himself off of his bed, sweeping the floor for something clean enough to wear and yanking the articles on.
This, as it turned out, wasn't quite the right move, as the cell phone took a quick dive to the floor, landing open, screen glaring up at him.
"Shit." Zack fastened his pants, shirt still hanging open as he bent down to scoop up the phone.
He was about to hit redial when the little device shook in his hand. There, on the LCD, was an address, followed by a short message:
'My place. 0220. Don't walk. Run."
This wouldn't end well.
Zack made the distance in a record eight minutes, nearly crashing into the lobby door at 0215.
He stared at the security module next to the door with a sort of disdain that could only be attained between the hours of one and seven.
He was about to brave whatever ridiculous security measures the SOLDIER barracks had in store when the door made a series of intimidating mechanical noises before a light, pleasant 'ding'.
"Ooookay." Zack mumbled, walking through after a brief moment's hesitation. He nearly screamed when a feminine voice wished him a 'most pleasant day from everyone at Shinra Corp." He did, however, allow himself a shiver.
There was just something wrong with that.
He was ready to take the stairs up to save time when the elevator issued an almost plaintive dinging noise. Everything about this place felt perversely lavish when he thought back on his tiny dorm space. It was no wonder SOLDIERs had such strenuous training. Their dorms were working against them.
Zack started up his squats while he waited for the right floor.
As soon as the doors slid open, imparting another disturbing mechanical sentiment, Zack's nerves got worse.
There was shouting, now, from more than one person.
"General Hewley?" Zack called before approaching the door. He raised his fist to knock, but drew back at the sound of glass shattering very near the door.
The door opened mere seconds later to reveal a shirtless Angeal Hewley looking deliciously disheveled, but for the nasty looking gash on his left cheek. "Cadet Fair, if you were going to kill a thirteen-year-old, where would you hide the body?"
The question was low and soft, and entirely too serious.
"I'm going to chalk that up to sleep deprivation, sir."
Angeal's eyes narrowed a little, as if he were about to drop off to a particularly angry sleep, "Someone's going to be deprived of something if he keeps this up much longer."
Zack's eyes slid over to the massive water stain on the wall near the entrance before moving down to the mess of glass and flowers that was most likely once a vase, "I take it you got Genesis out of your room, Sir?"
"...How did you know he was in my room?"
Zack pointed past the General and into the chaotic disarray that now constituted his apartment, "Damage radiates outward from—," The cadet's eyes widened, "What happened to your door?"
"I broke it."
"You broke it?"
"It was in the way, he was behind it—it's two 'o clock in the morning and suddenly I have children, Fair, was I supposed to charm him out with my expert parenting skills?"
"Well, no, but...I've never heard of anyone breaking in the door for a teenage fit, Sir. A drug bust, maybe."
Angeal gave him an expectant look.
"...My Da always jimmied the door hinges out." He finished lamely, casting a sheepish look at his feet.
Which was all well and good, because it was about then that a weepy bundle of blonde adorability beelined for his legs.
"Hey, Cloud. What happened?" He bent down, if a little awkwardly, to touch the blonde's back and frowned at the little tremors racking the scrawny boy.
"Ang-geal tried to break the door-an'-an' Gen said-'f-f-' he said bad shit an' then he-," The blonde pointed at Angeal, ignorant of Zack's surprised expression, "Wham! An' Gen came out an' screamed an' CRASH! An'...an'..."
Cloud paused, sniffling a little before turning huge, watery blues up at Zack, "He tied Gen to a chair."
Okay. That damaged the whole 'fantasy man' image. Tying Zack up might be okay once in a kinky blue moon, but hog tying a thirteen-year-old? Big no no. Almost a deal breaker. Until Zack glanced back at The Abs.
Zack glared at his C.O. with as much disapproval as he could in the face of direct superiority.
"He tied me to a fucking chair."
All eyes but Cloud's—which were still pressed into Zack's leg—focused on the pretty redhead on the other side of the room, toying with a kitchen knife.
Okay, that was a bad sign.
Angeal tensed up.
"Hi," Zack offered weakly, "You must be Genesis."
"Rot in hell, heathen."
He threw the knife down, massacring a poor, defenseless throw pillow before turning on his heel and heading into another room, slamming the door behind him.
"Perfect," Angeal grunted, "That was going to be his room."
Zack couldn't help but laugh, "I guess the threat of another witness cut his adolescent rage."
"How are you at making coffee?"
"Bless you, General Hewley."
Zack took the liberty of picking Cloud up and holding him in one arm before heading in the direction that Angeal pointed.
Angeal watched the dark-haired candidate closely over the rim of his mug, leaning back against the couch opposite the one the cadet occupied. The kid was good, that much was certain. While he was a competent cook, any pot of coffee that Angeal made was, by virtue of its maker, doomed to taste like road dirt and steel polish.
Zack's, on the other hand, tasted like pure, energizing heaven. The SOLDIER could almost forgive the incessant stinging in the left side of his face as tender for the good coffee and pleasant company. At one point, he had thought Cadet Fair was nothing but a little puppy—annoying and yappy.
But so far, the boy had managed to halt a rampaging teenager, make some of the best coffee Angeal had ever tasted, and calm down a distraught grade schooler who, for some reason, had the power to twist the SOLDIER's heart strings after a mere few hours of association.
Fair offered a lopsided grin from his place on the other couch, holding his coffee cup in one hand and petting soft, blonde hair with the other.
Angeal sighed, "I have to offer you an apology, Fair. I haven't exactly behaved according to code tonight."
Zack snorted, "Permission to speak freely?"
"You're in my apartment, making me coffee, saving me from a murder conviction. Say whatever the hell you want, cadet." If Zack weren't mistaken, he could swear there was a smile on his C.O.'s lips.
He shook his head, "General Hewley—"
"An...Angeal," Zack said a minimum of eight grateful prayers in his head, "You just became designated daddy for a needy little kid and a hormonal teenager. At least it was only an attempt."
"I think you're gonna be okay."
Maybe puppies weren't so bad.
By the time dawn hit, Zack had learned a few things.
One, Angeal Hewley sucked with teenagers even worse than he sucked with kids.
Two, Angeal Hewley had a kitchen which—Zack was fairly certain—could make his mother spontaneously orgasm.
Three, Angeal Hewley was awfully cute when he was early-morning grumpy.
And four, he could fall completely in love with the little blonde boy sleeping with his head cushioned on Zack's lap.
A/N: Okay, apparently I took chapter three down for edits and forgot to put it up. Here is the (hopefully) fixed-up version. I'll get right on the next bit as soon as assignment hell ceases to squeeze.