Disclaimer: Everyone except for Lt. Anton Tempest, Lt. General Colt Winchester, Sargeant Ozzie Hendrix, and Dr. Brett Harley, Dr. Sanjay Sushutra and Dr. Jarrod Raker, belong to Square Enix. I just brought them out to play.
Note:This story is the sequel to my story "Heart to Heart". I highly recommend you read "Heart to Heart" before reading this, but it is not absolutely necessary if you are just looking for some Zack + Generals fun.
Another Note: The character Lt. Colin Moray belongs to Amarissia from her fic "Madness of Angels". I liked him a lot in that fic and I was very sad to see him go. So I wanted to have him make some cameo appearances in my fic. And yes Amarissia did give me permission to use Colin in my fic.
Yet Another Note: Yes, Yes I am well aware that the Mythbusters, busted the myth of bending bullets, but remember there are a lot of physics laws being broken in FFVII.
Zack was practically bouncing in step behind Angeal. His mentor had finally been cleared by the medical personnel to return to full active combat duty, which in turn, meant hand-to-hand training instead of merely supervising from the sidelines.
Angeal had been busy since returning due to the fact he was next in the chain of high command and had to take Sephiroth's place. The doctors had unfortunately cleared him for paperwork and other non-combat/physical duties.
At least it had kept his mind occupied. He was never one to like lying around; even on his time off, he was always doing something. Either traveling somewhere or working on the small plot of land he had bought just outside of Midgar where the land was still green. Zack had asked several times if he could see the garden sometime, but Angeal replied that that place was his one area of true calm and solitude outside of Banora and he was not ready to trust Zack with the information as to its whereabouts. The only other people who knew about the place were Genesis, Sephiroth, and the guy who sold it to Angeal.
Genesis was never one to get his hands dirty outside of the battlefield, so he generally avoided the place and Sephiroth understood Angeal's desire to be alone from time to time, and only bothered Angeal if there was a crisis.
Speaking of the two generals, they had just come back this morning after settling things in Wutai, putting ShinRa back into a negotiation situation. Now that talks had commenced the generals were allowed to return for some rest and for their safety. ShinRa didn't want to risk infamous poster boys more than he needed to. If they were killed not only would it show SOLDIERs heroes were mortal, but also it was millions of gil in development down the drain.
Genesis had called Angeal and said they would meet him later after getting some beauty sleep, or more correctly Genesis wanted some beauty rest and insisted Sephiroth take it with him. While, they had been together in Wutai, they had not had much personal time for just the two of them.
The spring in Zack's step took on extra vigor when they neared training room number 2, their usual spot. Unfortunately, the room seemed to be occupied. Zack's initial disappointment faded when he read the names of occupants on the panel.
"Lt. C. Moray and Lt. A. Tempest."
The panel also indicated that it was a duel between the two rather than a mission simulation. Zack felt another rush of excitement, besides blowing up Ifrits Zack had not seen Anton in full fighting form against a real opponent and watching two first classes going at it was always exciting.
"Angeal, could we watch? Please?"
Angeal considered the request for moment before answering. "Yes, I think it would be good for you. In the advanced program you will eventually be learning a bit about firearms so you'll be a more well rounded officer."
"Cool!" Zack beamed, most of what Angeal had said beyond "yes" going completely over his head as he went for the door to the observation room. "I've never seen a gunners duel before, well apart from some of my fellow third classes, but it's not the same."
"No it's not." Angeal concurred. "For higher class gunners it is a lot more than just "point and shoot." There is a finesse and careful focus of—"
The steel general interrupted himself with a soft chuckle as Zack pressed his face against the viewing window. He was all the more amused at seeing Zack had not noticed the small room's other occupant.
Lieutenant General Colt Winchester sat in one of the chairs at the other end of the room. He looked over at Angeal and motioned toward Zack as if asking "Is this kid for real?" Angeal responded with a slight eye roll.
Before Angeal would have chided Zack for losing focus of his surroundings, but he just laughed inwardly. When had he suddenly found Zack's eccentricities so amusing and sweet instead of irritating?
Angeal reasoned that it must be because now he knew that Zack was more than capable on a real battlefield. There was no more need to get on his case about it in a safe setting.
Zack watched the two gunners go back and forth with wide eyes. It was true he had fallen for the belief like most young swordsmen, that the firearms was just point and shoot and somehow seemed a less skilled and less honorable path for SOLDIER.
But watching Anton and the other gunner Moray, he realized the terrible misconception. The two gunners dodged and moved with such grace. Every step was measured. Every shot so surely timed that only another first class could have survived.
"Are those real bullets?" Zack whispered more to himself than anyone else.
"Nah they use blanks." Winchester suddenly spoke, making Zack jump. "You still feel the impact of being hit but not the damage. All though they do leave some nasty welts and have broken a jaw or two."
"Uh, General Winchester sir," Zack stammered, still a little off guard. "When did you get here?"
"Since before you," The gunner general smirked.
"Sir?" Zack looked at him quizzically, but it was Angeal who answered. "He's been here since we entered. You were more interested in the duel."
Zack deflated a little. "And lost focus." He let out a soft sigh that indicated he was mentally kicking himself. How many times did Angeal have to say it?
"Sorry sir?" Zack said apologetically to the other general.
"S'all right, no harm done. Seeing a match-up like this would drive anyone to distraction." Colt answered casually.
Zack brightened a little at the gunner's easy going attitude, he cast a quick glance over at Angeal to see if he was still in trouble, but his mentor had turned his attention back to the duel, and his face was calm, meaning he was no longer in lecture mode.
"Who do you think will win?" Zack asked Winchester.
"Eh, they're about evenly matched right now, but Anton's holding back. He's trying to help Colin rehab." Colt answered.
"Rehab? What happened?" Zack raised an eyebrow.
"Crushed pelvis about 6 months ago, trying to be a hero." Colt said a little pensively.
Zack looked at him in surprise. "Really?"
"Yeah. Stupid." Colt muttered.
"Being a hero? Stupid?"
" No, bein' a hero's not stupid, it's going out of your way to try to be a hero that's stupid. You'll do something reckless and end up hurt." Colt said, his voice sounding more like Angeal in the middle of a "pride and dreams" than his usual laid back tone. "T'me a real hero is a guy who doesn't try to be a hero, he just does the right thing when it really counts. Remember that kid."
"Good advice." Angeal nodded with a smirk. "Although Zack might be a bit disappointed, his dream is to be a hero."
Colt stared a little empathetically at Zack's slightly crestfallen expression. He had been like that once. They had all been like that once. He offered the younger SOLDIER a smile. "Just be a good SOLDIER and good friend and you'll be a hero to somebody no doubt, who knows maybe you already are."
Zack brightened up considerably at that.
The sound of two other voices entering the viewing room drew their attention away from the gunners.
"See I told you they'd be here, always room 2." Genesis' unmistakable voice drawled.
"Technically this is the viewing room, not room 2." Sephiroth stated matter-of-factly.
"I'm trying to relax here Snowball, don't quibble." Genesis grumbled, nudging his lover in the shoulder with his finger.
"So who are you observing?" Sephiroth asked approaching Angeal.
"I thought it would be good for Zack to see some expert gunners in action, without an ifrit looming over him." Angeal said with a half smirk.
"Good to hear he has decided to enter the advanced program." Sephiroth said quietly, looking over at Zack, whose face was practically molded to the glass as he watched Tempest and Moray duel intently. "He seems more focused than usual."
"When Zack stays focused on something and firing on all cylinders toward that goal, he can accomplish almost anything, it's just getting to lock in focus that the trick." Angeal whispered, so Zack would not hear.
"He'll have to learn fast," Sephiroth said evenly, though there was an edge of darkness to it.
Fortunately, Genesis was there to lighten the mood. "But hopefully not too fast," the red head said smirking as he put and arm around each of his friends. "Right Angeal?"
Angeal froze, an involuntary "What?" coming out of his mouth. It was true as much as he wanted to see Zack achieve his dreams of being hero and a fine first class SOLDIER, a small part of him worried that in the process of growing up fast to be a great warrior, Zack would leave behind that perpetually happy spirit.
He knew Genesis meant it in jest, but still the hit was a little too close for comfort.
Suddenly, Winchester got up from his seat and went to the window. "Uh-oh, Anton's about to make his move."
It all happened so fast Zack almost didn't catch it. But what he did see he could barely believe. Anton suddenly tossed his gun into the air and with his now free hand grabbed Colin's firing arm and pointed the weapon away from himself meanwhile he caught his own gun in his other hand brought it forward to point-blank range right between Colin's eyes.
And just like that the duel was over, with a clear winner
Colin froze when he suddenly found himself staring down the muzzle of his friend's gun.
"I think the company has got you pushing too many pencils during your rehab Colin." Anton said with half smirk.
Colin sighed and pushed the gun away with the back of his hand. "No kidding. I feel like a lame chocobo. I gotta get back out there. Besides I heard Wutai is beautiful this time of year."
Both gunners chuckled at that and took off their VR visors.
"Okay, so what's with the new hair style and the purple?" Colin pointed to Anton's hair, which three quarters of it was cropped short with one part left long in front, dyed purple.
"New station, new style." Anton shrugged. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh well I just thought you usually change your hairstyle drastically when either get promoted or your band is about to play somewhere? And if the latter is correct, I'd like to see the show." Colin grinned.
"I thought my style of music was not your cup of tea." Anton eyed his friend skeptically.
"Well it's not, but I don't mind going out to support a friend. And seeing, you 'Mr. Calm and collected' all painted up freakishly is always good for a laugh." Moray chuckled.
Anton joined him in the soft laughter. "It's a good way to release some…inner demons."
"So when's the performance?" Colin prodded more directly.
"Tomorrow night. Just sort of small an open band night at the club in the compound."
"Cool! If I'm off I'll be there." Colin gave him a thumbs up.
"Yeah hopefully it won't be just in time to see me fall off the stage or my voice crack at the wrong moment." Anton snorted.
"Don't worry just get up and act like you meant to do it. That what General Rhapsodos does." Colin smiled and patted him on the shoulder.
Both officers burst out laughing at that.
"Glad to find y'all in such a good mood boys," Winchester greeted them, when he entered the room followed by Sephiroth and the other two generals with Zack tagging along behind.
The two lieutenants straightened at the appearance of the generals.
"At ease." Sephiroth said calmly.
"Good to see you home safely Sirs," Colin said and Anton nodded.
"Thank you, Lieutenant." Genesis answered for the both of them, giving Colin a sultry grin. "Now I know the one with purple hair, but I do not believe I have met you formally. I am not as familiar with Winchester's men."
"That's Lieutenant Colin Moray, one of my explosives experts, been out from an injury for awhile." Winchester explained.
"Oh, what a pity," Genesis said not looking like he pitied Colin all that much. "What was your injury darling?"
"Pelvis injury, sir." Colin injured.
"Ah, pelvis injury. A little bit too much thrusting?" Genesis teased.
"Genesis," Angeal warned, but Moray took the tease with a bit more humor.
"Afraid not that pleasurable sir, half a building fell on me. I was lucky my spine was spared." Colin answered pleasantly, and added as if to answer Angeal's question. "When you work with Lieutenant General Winchester, you learn not to be easily offended."
"I know," Genesis grinned looking over at the aforementioned gunner. "That's why I knew I could be so casual. I was just curious to see how you would react."
And just like that Genesis dropped the sultry grin, straightened his posture, and raised his eyelids for a more attentive look. Just like that, he was a general again.
At the pregnant pause, Angeal decided to enter the conversation. "Lieutenants I was just showing my student what true gunners were capable of before he enters the advanced program."
"I hope we did well. So Zack how does it feel to be in a room with several legends?" Colin asked.
"It's awesome! Wait you actually know my name?" Zack asked, a little surprised, most first classes didn't pay much time getting to know the third classes on a personal level, beyond last name and number.
"Yeah the stunt you and Anton pulled with the Ifrit is quite the talk. Well not so much of Anton, we expect it of a first class." Moray gave Tempest a friendly, who chuckled quietly in return. "But for a third class? That is something to take notice of."
"I think we're lucky to be in guns Colin or we would have to worry about Zack usurping us." It was said in jest, but there was a lining of earnestness in it that was meant as a compliment to Zack's talent.
"Not for awhile yet." Angeal said ruffling Zack's hair, earning him an embarrassed scoff from the younger man.
"We'd be happy to show him some other stuff." Colin offered. "Hey has he seen the bottle trick?"
"Yeah, I showed it to him in Wutai." Anton answered. He thought for a moment then snapped his fingers. "But I don't think he's seen "The Sidewinder," yet."
"Ooh! We've got to show him that!" Colin grinned and looked over at Winchester. "Particularly since we have the master himself here."
Zack looked from the lieutenants to Winchester. "The Sidewinder?"
"Even I have to admit this is pretty fun to watch," Angeal said a faint smirk on his face.
Winchester straightened up a little bit and smirked. "Yeah I'm one of the very, very few people who can do something that Sephiroth can't."
"Only because I do not specialize in your area of expertise," Sephiroth corrected, calmly.
"Some of us have done it in the training room, but General Winchester is the only one who has mastered it in real time battle." Anton explained, his eyes lighting up ever so slightly with excitement.
Zack's face lit up, "Oh man I've gotta to see this!"
"I know I would like to see it again." Genesis smiled.
"Well why not?" Winchester shrugged casually. "Computer! Setup basic gunner target practice."
The panels in the walls automatically opened up to reveal several targets, each of varying sizes and distances, but all containing one center point. The bullseye.
"So," Colt began, by pulling out one of his handguns and twirling it around like the standard image of a gunslinger. "Who wants to be a body?"
Zack opened his mouth enthusiastically to volunteer, but Angeal quickly clapped a hand over it with a firm, "No."
"Nah, I want you to watch this kid not participate." Winchester said before turning his gaze to Genesis. "How about you hot lips?"
Zack's jaw nearly dropped at Winchester addressing Genesis in such a way. He looked over at Angeal and mouthed questioningly, "Hot lips."
Angeal waved his hand and shook his head in a "Don't ask" fashion.
Zack nodded still a little stunned.
Genesis only licked his lips in response. "Very hot. But I must decline Colt. I don't want to take a chance on ruining Sushutra's work so quickly."
"Right can't ruin perfection," Colt nodded before turning to the Lieutenants. "So which one of you boys want to participate in the sidewinder?"
Both Moray and Tempest raised their hands and replied "I will!" at the same time.
"Just a moment," Sephiroth interrupted calmly. "I saw you using this on the battlefield and as the resident expert here on it, I suggest, for the benefit of the younger SOLDIERs here, to use a bigger challenge."
Sephiroth demonstrated his point by taking his place in front of the target.
"Aw, Shit." Colt said with a worried but slightly amused smile on his face. "No pressure."
The gunner general raised his handgun and took aim at Sephiroth. "You watchin' kid?"
Zack looked between Colt and Sephiroth eyes wide, but answered automatically. "Yeah."
"All right I'm going to move slower than I would on the battlefield so you can see what I'm up to."
Colt readjusted his aim and studied Sephiroth a few moments long, then suddenly got into a stance that looked more like a swordsman about to make a slash attack with half his body rotated and his arm with gun back. Then suddenly with almost lightning speed, he swung back around. At the high point of the swing, he fired.
There was a bang and definite sound of impact, but Sephiroth looked completely unharmed. The general stepped aside and turned around to look at the target that had been directly behind him.
"Bullseye." Sephiroth stated coolly.
"Phew," Colt dramatically wiped his brow even though there was no real sweat on it. "I tell you what, I was getting' nervous there. I was afraid I'd skim and take of some that silver hair of yours then Genesis would come over and beat the shit outta me.
For about the third time that day Zack's jaw dropped, he'd never seen anyone bend bullets before. He did not know that was even possible. Then again, he did not think a lot of things were possible until he joined SOLDIER.
He might have launched himself at the gunner out of sheer excitement, but Angeal's firm hand on the back of his shirt held him back. However he did not feel too guilty about his glee, considering Moray and to a slightly lesser extent Tempest's faces were alight with excitement as well.
"So kid? What do ya think?" Colt twirled the gun again before putting it back into the holster.
"That was awesome!" Zack said practically bouncing on the balls of his feet. "I can't believe I've never heard of this before."
Colt let out a rather dramatic sigh. "Been in Wutai too long, everybody's forgotten about me. All you swordsmen been stealin' my spotlight." He shook his head in mock indigence. "Sad..."
"Don't worry darling," Genesis said putting an arm around him. "Now that you're back for awhile you can dazzle a new batch of cadets with your sharp shooting skills. The puppy there for example," He motioned to Zack. "He will probably go and tell all of his little friends of your awesomeness. Won't you puppy?"
Zack nodded his head vigorously. "Sure will!"
"Thanks kid." Colt grinned.
"In fact on that note, we have a little favor to ask that might give your fame even more of a resurrection," Genesis leaned more into him.
"Yeah?" Colt raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest and nudged Genesis away with his elbow.
"How would you like to play Sephiroth, hero and general of the entire army for five days?" Genesis said.
Both of Colt's eyebrows shot up now. "So I'm going to be in charge and not Heidegger, while you guys are in Golden Saucer?"
"That is correct." Sephiroth confirmed. "As Lieutenant General, either you or Heidegger would be in charge in the absence of Angeal, Genesis and myself, either by leave or death."
"Must you so morbid all the time?" Genesis sighed.
"Just being realistic," Sephiroth stated.
Meanwhile a Cheshire cat grin spread across Colt's face. "Me, in charge. General Colt. Commander in Chief." Suddenly as soon as it had come, the smile disappeared. "Does that include paperwork too?"
"You assume all of my duties, including paperwork." Sephiroth stated.
"Damn," Colt snapped his fingers.
"Well don't look so sad," Genesis chimed in once again, "You have those to lovely young men over there. They were willing to take a bullet for show before, I'm sure they would be more than willing to help you with a little paperwork."
Admittedly the two Lieutenants looked less than excited but still willing to help their commander if he needed it.
"And if the puppy needs sitting," Colt chuckled looking over at Zack. "He can help us out too."
"I am going to give him some time off as well to rest up both physically and mentally before he starts the advanced program." Angeal said patting Zack's head, whom looked less than happy about being talked about as if he were a child or a pet that needed to be taken care of. Though he soon brightened up again at hearing he would have some time off.
"So, going into the advanced program eh?" Colt addressed Zack directly this time. "Think you're up to the job? I won't lie sometimes the short way is the long way."
"Sir?" Zack looked at him a little perplexed.
"Allow me to translate Rocket Town speak cherub." Genesis said. "The advanced program is over a short time period, only sixth months, but it is a tough road all the way, so it will seem very long. If you want a better elaboration, just ask those two."
Genesis pointed to Tempest and Moray, who exchanged a look.
"It is true Zack, between the homework, extra classes, extra training, and extra missions you will virtually have no life outside SOLDIER for the next six months." Anton said matter-of-factly.
"Life? What is this life you speak of? I have never heard of such a thing!" Colin said in a mock stunned voice.
Anton chuckled. "That's about right."
Zack felt his heart sink just a tiny bit. No fun for six months, he hadn't considered that all the way. Oh well that was price to pay to get to second class and perhaps to adult status in Angeal's eyes faster.
"Well I guess I just gotta put my head down in the wind and keep on pushing." Zack said with the most confident smile he could muster.
"That's the spirit!" Colt went over and clapped him on the shoulder, before going over to Sephiroth. "Well if I am going to be taking over in a couple of days, we better go over everything."
The General nodded and he followed Colt out, mouthing to Genesis that they would meet later, before he left completely.
"Lieutenants," Angeal calmly addressed Moray and Tempest. "If you are finished with your session I should like to use this room."
The two SOLDIERs nodded and saluted the two remaining generals before heading towards the door.
"Good luck Zack," Colin patted him on the back as he passed by.
"Don't worry, you'll be all right," Anton gave him a small smile. "If you need help, don't be afraid to ask."
"Thanks guys!" Zack beamed at them and waved as they left.
"'Geal." Genesis addressed his friend after the lieutenants left. "I think I have a wonderful idea."
"Oh and what would that be?" Angeal smirked, he knew that mischievous glint Genesis' eye.
"Why don't we bring the puppy with us?"Genesis said plainly.
Angeal blinked as if not sure he had heard Genesis correctly. "What?"
"I think we should take Zack with us." Genesis repeated calmly, glancing over at Zack who was now frozen to his spot, with his hand still in the air and stunned look on his face, looking over his shoulder at them.
Angeal looked at his friend in disbelief. Could Gaia really be this kind? Angeal had thought about inviting Zack to go with them to Golden Saucer. Zack had been through much more than he should have during that time in Wutai, capture, serious injury, almost being killed, fighting ifrits. Any one of those things would jumble a non-veteran's mind. A lively and colorful place like Golden Saucer would be perfect to clear and refresh Zack's head from the worry of all that.
However, Angeal had dismissed the idea originally, since Genesis and Zack had not started off on friendly terms, no doubt Genesis would object to the puppy tagging a long on their vacation. And if Angeal insisted on Zack coming it would only create unwanted and unneeded tension between all of them.
But in a single moment that had all changed, Genesis himself had just suggested Zack to go with them.
"You're okay with this Genesis?" Angeal asked, just wanting to be sure. "And Sephiroth is okay with it?"
"Yes, we discussed it on the way home. For two reasons. One the young man took on a behemoth and an ifrit to protect you and me. That counts for something," Genesis looked fondly over at Zack, who by now had relaxed a little and was staring back at them in both excitement and disbelief.
"And the other reason," Genesis smirked looking back at Angeal. "With his bubbliness even you won't be able to resist having fun."
Angeal rolled his eyes and shook his head, but there was a smile on his face. "Our definitions of fun are just different that's all."
"Our definitions of fun used to be more the same," Genesis said a little more serious.
The smile faded briefly from Angeal's face, but he managed to reclaim it before turning to Zack. "What do you say Zack? Mind putting up with us in Golden saucer for five days?"
"Sure! Yeah! I'm so there!" Zack said almost leaping into the air.
Zack practically danced down the hallway back to his room. Even though Angeal had put him through a particularly tough VR mission today, he was still pumped about going to Golden Saucer with Angeal.
When he opened the door to his quarters he heard the sounds of clattering from the kitchenette, indicating his roommate and friend Kunsel was back too. Something to be even more excited about, it was his friend's birthday.
"Yo, yo, yo," Zack greeted his friend.
"Hey dude." Kunsel mumbled around a mouth full of noodles.
"Wait right there man." Zack said, before dashing into the bedroom. When he cam back out he had a small package wrapped in newspaper, with a big red bow around it.
"Happy, happy birthday, it comes from me to you. Happy, happy birthday I hope you like this too! Hey!" Zack finished his impromptu song and posed holding out the gift to Kunsel.
"You're awesome man." Kunsel laughed taking the gift. "All right, let's see what ya' me."
"Just a little something I thought you might like. And hopefully it will cheer you up since you have patrol duty on your birthday night." Zack said with a slight sympathy pout.
"Only so I can get off tomorrow for the "No Man's land" concert, which is where my real party will be at." Kunsel grinned. "You're coming right?"
"Wild chocobos couldn't hold me back," Zack said proudly. "Although I don't know about taskmaster Angeal though."
Kunsel laughed, however the grin faded into a look of confusion when he finished opening the gift. "A broken bottle?"
Zack smiled smugly and rotated the bottle around so his friend could clearly see the signatures.
Kunsel's eyes suddenly grew as big as saucers. "Oh Gaia, Oh Gaia. No way! That's—That's Ozzie Hendrix!"
In his shock, amazement and pure joy Kunsel had suddenly lost the ability to form proper sentences. "How—How did you--? Dude!"
"Well you know about me and Tempest and the Ifrit thing, well I forgot to mention I met Ozzie briefly too."
Zack suddenly found himself engulfed in Kunsel's arms.
"You're the greatest friend in the world man!"
"I love you too Kuns, but no crying even out of joy, it's your birthday," Zack patting Kunsel on the back.
"Seriously Zack," Kunsel said pulling away. "This one of the best gifts anyone ever given me. I mean not just the bottle, but you thought about getting it for me in the first place, even in the middle of the battlefield."
"That's what friends are for right?" Zack shrugged, "Just think of me when it comes time for my birthday. But right now you gotta finished eatin' and get out of here, before you're late."
"Thanks for everything man! I promise I'll make it up to you, somehow!" Kunsel said giving his friend one more hug before going back to his dinner.
Zack meanwhile made his way back to the bedroom to get some sleep. He couldn't help, but laugh when he crashed down on the mattress. He was going to enjoy tomorrow tonight, and the weekend to Golden Saucer, for he knew the next six months would not hold such fun and to achieve his goals he would have to buckle down and focus the way Angeal always told him to do. And he would do it. For himself, for his dreams, for…Angeal…
Sorry about the long wait this chapter just kept extending itself. Don't worry the next chapter will come soon with Zack and Kunsel going to see Anton in concert.