Note: I beg your pardon for the very long wait. The hard drive I had all my writing on failed unexpectedly earlier this year, so all chapters in progress had to be redone from scratch. Writing has been complicated by the fact that I'm finally at a point in my education where I'm being worked to the bone again. I've taken a bit of a scenic route to get here and I'm loving every minute of it but it does leave a body worn out at the end of the day. At any rate, here's the fic! Glad you all are still here! :D

The Mission

Chapter 23: Recruitment

"Did you find them?" Cloud asked.

Zack shook his head. "They have to be in the bedroom."

Cloud eyed the two pairs of boots near the door. "There's no screaming. That's good, right? That means they're not fighting anymore. You think they made up okay?"

Zack crossed his arms. "Maybe they're not fighting because they already killed each other." He circled around Cloud. "Even now their dismembered bodies could be lying scattered across the bedroom floor, body parts oozing life juices into the carpet as decay sets in. All that's needed now is for someone to go investigate the strange smell."

"Gaia, Zack!" Cloud smacked him. "You're disgusting."

"Hey, a good SOLDIER considers all possibilities." Zack stuck out his tongue. "So, who gets to go look in on them?"

"No way, Mister, I am not interrupting other people's private time."

"And I'm not walking in on a crime scene, thanks."

"Hmph." Cloud snorted. "Some SOLDIER you are."

"Hey, you want to put your DNA all over the murder weapons when the investigators come, that's your business."

They stood in the kitchen doorway and contemplated their options. Zack lit up. "We could listen at the door!"

"Zack, that's almost as bad as looking." Cloud frowned. "Besides, I can't hear like you do."

"Soon enough, Chocobohead." Zack bounced past to the dish rack. "In the meantime, use a glass!"

"Zack," Cloud protested. "That's what nosey neighbors do! Besides, what if they get mad and stick a sword through the door and it goes in my ear? Did you think about that? Did you?"

Zack folded his arms. "What if I use a glass too? That'll cut the odds of them getting you in half. What do you say?"

"I say you can get yourself killed someday but make sure you put me somewhere out of the way first."

"You're mean, Cloud." Zack pouted. "Come on, let's go."

They tiptoed down the hallway, inching up on the door. "You first," Zack said.

"Nuh-uh, you have the SOLDIER ears."

"Fine," Zack said. "Throw me to the wolves. Promise me you'll at least shed a tear over my mauled and mangled corpse."

"Yeah, yeah, whatever." Cloud gave Zack a shove. "Well, hear anything?"

"Not so loud!" Zack whispered. "Give me a minute." He gingerly pressed his ear against the door. "Nothing."

"What?"

"Nothing. There's nothing."

"Here, use the glass." Cloud held it out.

"Why don't you use the glass?"

"Because normal ears with a glass aren't as good as SOLDIER ears with a glass. Now hurry up before they hear us."

"Bossy, bossy," Zack grumbled and crouched low against the door. He set the glass against the door and leaned against it, listening. Cloud hung back, watching the way Zack's eyebrows moved when he concentrated. After a moment Zack shook his head. "Still nothing."

Cloud's shoulders drooped. "You don't think they're…"

Zack swallowed. He looked down at the gap under the door. "I don't see any blood seeping out from under there, do you?"

Cloud blinked, twisting sweaty hands in the fabric of his combat pants. "What if they bashed each other to bits in the bathroom?"

Zack straightened up, alarmed. "Maybe Genesis drowned Angeal in the bathtub!"

"Maybe Angeal drowned Genesis in the toilet!"

The boys stared at each other, too wide-eyed for belief. Zack's lips twitched first. "You wanna look?"

"No way!" Cloud shook his head. "What if they're having a moment or something? I'm not interrupting that." He glanced at the door. No light filtered through around the edges. "Besides, if they really did go too far…" Speculation was fun enough in its own odd way, but that was all the fun of that nature that Cloud could take.

Zack seemed to agree. "Let Sephiroth find them first," he said, nodding. "How about a movie?"

"Fine with me. I'll get snacks, you pick something out." Cloud skipped back down the hallway. "Not the porn!"

"Aww!"

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

"In the toilet?" Genesis screwed up his face. "The indignity! Where do they get these ideas?"

"Too many gory movies is my guess," Angeal said, stroking Genesis's hair. It was as soft as Angeal remembered.

Genesis leaned into the touch. "Cloud doesn't really like that kind of thing. At least he didn't before your pup came along."

Angeal paused. "Are you saying Zack's a bad influence?"

"Not at all." Genesis yawned. "Cloud needs somebody who can get him to unwind like that. They're good with each other." He made a sound as if he had more to say, but it turned into a soft, contented purr. He nestled his head further into his pillows, closed his eyes and smiled.

Angeal smiled with him, grateful for the gift of being allowed into his first love's bed again, for the closeness of it. He had missed this. After the embarrassingly heartfelt confessions, Angeal had shed his belts and armor, stripped down to his shirt and shorts and nearly barrelled into the space Genesis made for him. There had been a kiss or two and Angeal would have dearly loved more, but Genesis was genuinely tired. He had even resisted Angeal's attempt to undress him, claiming that he really felt cold.

So Angeal had to settle for lying beside Genesis in half-sleep, content with soft touches and simply being together, and that was no problem at all. They had heard the young ones come in, of course. It was from a touch of Genesis's perverse nature that they had stayed quiet, listening to every move.

Angeal kept his touches light, marvelling at the feel of familiar skin beneath his hands. "Got a dry spot here, Gen," he said, fingers tracing a slightly roughened spot on Genesis' jawline.

"I ran out of moisturizer," Genesis said, eyes fluttering slightly. "Been using a lot lately."

It flickered across Angeal's mind that Genesis might be seeing a resurgence of an odd rash he'd had as a child. It tended to flare up whenever Genesis's parents fought. But it had not appeared in years. The mako should have taken care of it. Angeal inched closer, tangling his fingers in Genesis's cinnamon-colored hair. The motion revealed something odd at the temple, a lone, brittle strand of grey. "Gen," he whispered.

"Mmm?" Genesis did open his eyes, but Angeal knew he was happy.

"Nothing, love." He kissed Genesis's forehead, noting the temperature at the same time. It had been a degree or two over normal at first, but had fallen back to normal in short order. Angeal shifted, twining a leg over Genesis's hip. The flannel pajama pants slid down some, revealing a taut stomach and Angeal's favourite belly button. He had a half-second to admire it before Genesis tugged his shirt down to cover it, complaining of the cold.

"How can you be cold?" Angeal scolded lightly. "You've got every blanket in the place on top of you."

Genesis shrugged, still not opening his eyes. "I just feel like being snug."

Angeal inched even closer, wrapping his arms around Genesis. He stroked the firm body beneath the flannel and pressed light kisses all over the man's face. "Is this better?"

Genesis tucked his head under Angeal's chin. His breath was warm on Angeal's chest. "It's perfect." He was quiet for so long that Angeal thought he had fallen asleep. It was enough for now, more than enough, that Genesis would share this with him. Angeal stared down the side of Genesis's head, admiring the curve of shoulder bared by a neckline gone askew. Beautiful. They lay together in each other's arms so long Angeal himself began to fall asleep.

"Hey, Angeal?" Genesis's sleep-roughened voice cut through the silence.

"Yes, Gen?"

"How about later we throw some sheets over our heads and go give the little ones a good scare?"

Angeal grunted. "No wonder you and Zack get along."

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

Two plates of cookies, one action thriller flick with a ton of explosions and a jumbo bag of potato chips later and Cloud and Zack had succeeded in molding the couch leather to their behinds. Stripped down to shirts and shorts, they stretched out full length on the couch, tangled around each other like puppies cuddling from the cold. "Put another movie on," Cloud whined. "The credits are all done."

Zack stretched the best he could. "You put something else on. I got the last one. Besides, you're on top. You move."

"Aww, I don't want to," Cloud groaned. "You're the SOLDIER. Put that mako power to use."

Zack reached out to the coffee table, flailing ineffectively at the remote. "It's not working," he wailed. "Start hoofing it, trooper. You have entrance exams coming up. Back me up here, it's good training." Cloud groaned some more and wriggled around in ways that Zack was not inclined to complain about.

They were saved from the laziness race by the sound of the door. Cloud perked up right away. "Seph?"

"I'm home, Cloud," Sephiroth called. Leather creaked against metal as he stripped his coat off by the door. Even barefoot he had a heavy step when he walked. Cloud felt Zack stiffen beneath him and was nice enough to hide his smirk. The urge to stand up and salute the General took its sweet time to fade.

Sephiroth, utterly bare-chested, stopped at the couch and looked them over. "Where are the others?"

"Inside," Cloud said, nodding towards the bedroom. "We think they made up."

"Or they killed each other," Zack blurted out too loudly.

Sephiroth's head tilted. His chest moved as if he breathed deeply but there was hardly any sound. "I don't smell blood." He frowned. "Or lube. Hmm."

Cloud and Zack blinked at each other. "You think maybe they… talked?"

"It's been known to happen." Sephiroth shrugged, silver hair sliding off his shoulder. "What are you two up to?"

"We were watching a movie," Cloud said, "but it's done now."

"Oh." Sephiroth perched on the armrest and stared at the screen. "What do you two normally do after a movie?" Cloud and Zack shared a glance. Zack's cheeks turned a telling shade of rose. Sephiroth smirked. "I see," he said, running a finger down the sole of Cloud's foot.

"Quit it," Cloud said, half-giggling. "Tickles!" Sephiroth deliberately did not quit anything, taking Cloud's foot in one hand and stroking it gently, tugging at the toes. "Seph," Cloud protested, kicking out with no real force. Sephiroth sank to his knees and bit Cloud's instep. "Seph!" Cloud wailed. "I don't want to."

"Oh." Sephiroth stopped immediately, dismay written on his face. One look at Cloud let him know it was sincere. Sephiroth stood. "Are you still sore? You should take a potion."

"It's not that," Cloud said. "You're getting Zack worked up and I can't take care of both of you right now."

Sephiroth glanced over at Zack. The boy was trying to bury his face in the throw pillows. "Oh," Sephiroth said, suddenly understanding. "Zack?" he asked, seeking an edge of the couch to sit on. "Zack?" he called again, one hand reaching to the young man's back.

Zack reluctantly pulled his head out from the cushions. "Yes, Sir?"

Sephiroth smiled at him. It was a disarming smile, one that Sephiroth had never been able to use deliberately. He wore it now and Zack's heart fluttered. "Do you need some help with that, Zack?"

Zack turned his eyes to the prominent bulge in his shorts. "Oh, man," he wailed and hid his face in his hands. Of all the things to happen in front of the General. Zack busied himself trying to think unsexy thoughts. He completely missed the look Cloud gave the General, the hand Cloud placed on Sephiroth's arm and the silent communiqué that passed between them.

Zack felt Cloud stretching out on top of him again, slender legs sliding alongside his own. "Zack," Cloud said. "It's okay. It won't hurt. Don't you want to try?" Zack groaned and tried to twist his hips out of sight. He only succeeded in grinding his erection against Cloud's leg. Sephiroth sat back, immensely pleased with the show.

"Zack," Cloud said again, slithering upwards to tease Zack's earring. "It'll be okay. I'll be right here."

Zack peered out, blinking into the light. "You won't laugh?"

Cloud bit back the very thing. Sephiroth leaned in. "What's to laugh about, Zack?" he asked, brushing the boy's bangs aside. "Certainly not you." Zack made a silent cry, unable to look away from the General.

Cloud nuzzled the side of Zack's face. "Zack? You want to?" Zack tried to answer but couldn't find his voice. He nodded, lost in Sephiroth's eyes. Sephiroth's rare sweet smile took on a sinister slant but he moved too fast for Zack to change his mind.

"Help him undress, Cloud," he instructed and Cloud complied, working his hands under Zack's knit shirt. Zack could not do much more than gasp for air. Cloud's weight was on him. Cloud's fingers were circling his nipples. Cloud's lips were on his skin.

"It's okay," Cloud whispered. "I'm right here." He raised Zack's shirt, baring lightly tanned skin. "Zack, I'll need a little help here." Cloud tugged the shirt upwards, trying to get it past Zack's bare, peaking nipples.

"Leave it," Sephiroth said. "I like this look on him." Cloud nodded and worked his way down Zack's body, pressing a trail of moist kisses down the plane of Zack's stomach.

"Cloud!" Zack cried, arching his back as a wicked tongue dipped into his navel. Sephiroth exhaled heavily, eyes glowing with appreciation. Zack could hardly bear it. He wanted to look away but Sephiroth held him transfixed, eye to eye, reading his every move.

"You can stop us anytime, Zack," the General said. His voice had a smoothness to it and Zack felt himself shiver in response. "Anytime, Zack." Zack swallowed.

Nimble fingers worked their way under his waistband, tangling in wiry curls. Zack bit his lips together and mewled. At Sephiroth's sign, Cloud stopped and Zack's quiet mewling became a wail. "Zack," Sephiroth said, leaning closer again. "Do you want this? Do you really want this?"

Zack cursed his mouth for betraying him at this crucial point. What good was a chatty nature if it deserted at the worst possible moment? Zack glanced from one man to the other and made his move. He reached with both hands, one tangling in Cloud's bright hair, the other reaching around Sephiroth's head, pulling him down. Sephiroth did not need a second invitation. He met Zack's lips with sweet, clasping kisses, licking at lips that readily parted for him. Zack moaned into the kiss, soon going breathless at the enormity of it, that he was kissing General Sephiroth, world-renowned hero.

Sephiroth pulled back too soon, leaving Zack cold and whimpering. "Hey, it's okay," Cloud said, rutting slowly against Zack's leg. "We still have to get your clothes off."

Sephiroth inclined his head. "Lift your hips, Zack. Let Cloud get you ready."

"Uh, yeah," Zack breathed, words returning to him.

Sephiroth stood to give them space and took the opportunity to retrieve the lube Genesis kept under the lamp for just such an occasion. The tube was half-finished already. Sephiroth gave a speculative look at the young men on the couch, the one lifting his hips and the other sliding boxer shorts off with practiced ease. Genesis's couch was getting more action than the man realized.

"Here," Sephiroth said, tapping Cloud on the shoulder. Cloud took the tube and got to work, slicking two fingers right in Zack's view.

Zack was gasping again. He could not meet the General's eyes this time and settled for staring at the man's impeccable chest. Sephiroth was getting undressed for him too, hands working slowly at the belts. It helped, but only a little. Zack felt cold fingers circling his entrance and fought the urge to shut his legs and pull away. He had not been shy in front of any of the others. This should not be any different.

But it was General Sephiroth staring down at him, General Sephiroth undoing belt buckles and slipping leather pants down, General Sephiroth standing ready to have him. Zack felt his mouth go dry. His cock jumped in Cloud's hand, openly eager while Zack himself could only wait.

At Sephiroth's nod, Cloud slid two fingers into Zack, taking his time with it, keeping it slow. Sephiroth returned to the edge of the seat and brushed Zack's wild hair aside. "Has he done this for you before?"

"Uh, yeah," Zack said, voice catching. His toes twitched, seeking purchase in black leather. Sephiroth's hands were on him, trailing along bare skin, tugging at the shirt that lay bunched under Zack's arms. "We'll take it slow," Sephiroth was saying, his voice low and smooth. "You'll like that, won't you?"

Zack gathered his breath. "Yeah, yeah, I think so." Cloud's fingers were distracting, a third added now, and one hand making feathery trails along his cock. Zack twisted his hips again, angling for more.

"I think he's in a hurry," Sephiroth said to Cloud.

Cloud tossed a knowing smile at Zack. "He usually is." Sephiroth cupped Cloud's face in one hand and kissed him, drawing everything out of Cloud that he had to give in a kiss as repayment to Zack for the show he had made.

Sephiroth pulled away forcefully, leaving Cloud panting. "Hold him," he said, and Cloud moved up Zack's torso again. Sephiroth did not waste anymore time himself, grabbing Zack's ankles and situating himself between them. He yanked hard and pulled Zack towards him.

Zack cried out in surprise, lunging upwards. "Slow!" he cried. "You said slow!"

Sephiroth smirked. "So I did. Give him the lube, Cloud."

Cloud fished the lube out from the cushions, sliding around Zack as he did. "Here," he said, passing the tube to Zack. "Lie back. I'm right here with you." Zack did, slowly resting his weight on Cloud's body. Cloud's arms came up around his chest, short nails clawing playfully. Cloud settled his chin over Zack's shoulder, holding Zack's body between spread thighs. Zack could feel Cloud's cock against his back.

Sephiroth positioned himself closer, lifting Zack's knees. "Touch me, Zack. Use the lube." Cloud nibbled Zack's ear in silent encouragement.

It was a struggle at first, getting the tube open. Zack squeezed out too much in his haste and it dripped across his stomach. Cloud laughed lightly, scooping it up and smearing it along Zack's chest. "Messy puppy." Zack yipped once and reached out for Sephiroth. He worked his hands down as much of the length as he could, returning to stroke the head when it wrung a groan from the man.

Cloud bucked slowly under Zack, stroking his body with utmost care. He sucked Zack's earring into his mouth, then let it slide free again in favor of marking Zack's neck. Sephiroth's eyes glowed beneath heavy lids as he looked on. Cloud continued to nuzzle as much of Zack as he could reach. "Squeeze him," he whispered when Sephiroth's eyes were half-closed. "He likes that."

Zack got the best grip he could from that position and squeezed lightly. Sephiroth inhaled sharply, eyes tightly shut, but he did not make a sound. He caught Zack's hands, stilling their motion. With a deep sigh, Sephiroth reigned himself in and turned the most brilliant mako eyes on the Planet on one hapless young SOLDIER. "You're ready," he said and pressed forward.

Zack gasped as he always did on being entered, going rigid at the first thrust before giving in. He locked his legs around Sephiroth's body and gave the man a grin. Sephiroth moaned his approval and began to move.

It was a steady pace, faster than Angeal's when he was taking it slow. Cloud murmured sweet encouragement in Zack's ear, keeping time with his own hips grinding against Zack's back. Zack caught on and began to move, his eyes on the man above him. The thrill inside him grew. As boyhood went, there were dreams and there were dreams and one of Zack's very secret ones was coming true. He almost burst out laughing.

"Having fun?" Sephiroth raised one eyebrow.

"Yes, Sir!" Zack's voice was back and with it, his brashness. He reached out and grabbed Sephiroth around the shoulders, pulling the man down on top of him. Cloud grunted from the added weight but continued unabated, running his hands up Zack's body, scratching and soothing in turn.

Sephiroth took the move as a call for more. He hooked Zack's knees on his shoulders and gave Zack exactly what he craved. Silver hair fell around them, long strands sticking to Zack's damp skin. Cloud was making hungry little sounds into the side of Zack's neck. Sephiroth leaned down further, bending Zack almost in half to kiss both young men on their heads. "Touch him, Cloud."

Cloud nodded, reaching down. Sephiroth shifted to give him room and hit the perfect angle of entry. "Gaia!" Zack cried and continued in a stream of profanity-laced pleading.

"Does Angeal like it when you talk dirty?" Sephiroth asked. "Because I do."

The admission fried the last functioning circuit in Zack's brain, wringing a final cry out of him like a confession. He arched into Sephiroth's body, wracked with pleasure. The General held his gaze, immensely satisfied. Zack sank back to the couch and Cloud's waiting arms. Zack could feel a certain wetness spilling across his back. He turned to check on Cloud and found him licking his hands clean.

Sephiroth made to pull out but Zack would not let him. "It's okay," he said. "Finish up. I can handle it."

Sephiroth nodded, smiling his secret smile again in gratitude for that gift of trust. He was slow and careful, watching Zack closely for any sign of discomfort. Zack nestled back against Cloud, too limp and sated to complain at all. He took one of Cloud's sticky hands and began tracing it with his tongue, doing his share.

Sephiroth sighed deeply above them. They truly were a lovely pair and he had just had them all to himself. It was a wondrous thing. Zack and Cloud bent their heads together. Faces flushed, eyes closed, mouths turned to smiling, they made a perfect picture of sensual delight. Sephiroth shuddered and let go.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

"Angeal?"

"Yes, Gen?"

"Was that what it sounded like?"

"I believe it was."

"About damned time."