Quiet: This is a late Christmas gift for my beta, ohxasphyxiationx. Just something cute and fluffy until I can work on somethin down and dirty for her. ....wow that sounds wrong. XD
"Here," Zack said, tossing a slim box in Sephiroth's direction.
Sephiroth caught it on reflex, then lowered his hand to investigate. The box was fairly light in his hand, and neatly wrapped in chocobo print wrapping paper. A simple bow completed the festive appearance of the box, and Sephiroth tilted his head in puzzlement.
"What is it?" he inquired, wondering if the company had decided to start delivering classified paperwork in a more creative manner.
His speculative musing was broken when Zack snorted and made a wide gesture with his hands. "You're supposed to open it and find out. It's the whole point of Yule, y'know."
The dark-haired man suddenly found himself under the intense scrutiny of focused green eyes, and he nearly groaned as he recognized what Sephiroth was doing.
Over the past year or so of working with the man so closely, it was only natural that he began picking up silent cues and signals in order to understand him. Sephiroth's way of getting answers was to study or analyze something as if it were an opponent in battle; the first few times he'd set that unwavering stare on Zack, he'd been discomfited and on edge until he'd realized that Sephiroth mistook his discomfort for an unwillingness to explain. The silver-haired man usually averted his eyes and cut off his curiosity once he caught himself making others uncomfortable, but Zack had learned to meet those green eyes with honesty and try his best to explain with complete sincerity.
"I forget that not everyone in Midgar celebrates Yule," he said sheepishly. "It's usually only people that've moved from smaller towns, I suppose."
He paused and held up a finger as inspiration struck. "Well, it's like this: in small towns, like where I'm from, there's a holiday called Yuletide, where people exchange gifts with each other. It can be a card, expensive jewelry—hell, even a pack of new socks is alright! Of course, that's not all it's about; family is important, as well as spending time with those you love and care about."
A slight incline of his head, and Sephiroth slowly looked down at the box in his hands before looking back at Zack and raising his brows.
"Go ahead and open it," Zack said, grinning.
Carefully, Sephiroth examined the creases of the package, and methodically began picking at the tape; an impatient sound from his subordinate had him looking back up. "…yes?"
"That's not the way you do it!" Zack cried, looking slightly pained. "You're supposed to tear into it, rip it a new one! It's something to be excited about!"
There was a slight creasing of fine silver brows. "Rip it a new what?"
"Nevermind," Zack declared, waving the words away. "Just open it already! It's not a bomb."
Wary now, Sephiroth buried his fingers under the flaps and jerked upward, nearly wincing at the sharp sound of tearing paper. People got excited to hear others rip things apart? He ignored Zack's grinning face and studied the simple cream-colored box with the name of one of Sector 8's top arms stores on it. Another glance at Zack had him opening the box, and he stared down at the contents in bemusement.
After a moment, he picked up a swathe of shimmering green cloth, covered in a pattern that looked vaguely Wutaian in origin—he always had enjoyed the nation's artistry, despite the unfortunate necessity of having to fight there. A large, bold 'S' was elegantly monogrammed in silver in one corner, and he assumed it was meant to represent his name.
He hesitated, not wanting to disappoint or offend Zack with his ignorance of the cloth's significance. "What is it?"
"It's a cleaning cloth for Masamune," Zack replied, confusing Sephiroth even more.
"Why go through the trouble of making it appealing if it is merely going to be stained with blood and oil?"
Shaking his head over the blatant observation, Zack smiled at the General. "No, no, it's not that kind of cleaning cloth! It's more of a…formal kinda thing. I noticed that sometimes you just like to run your hands over your sword, and this way, you can do that without worrying about it getting all handprint-y."
Handprint-y? he wanted to ask, but he'd had enough of Zack's odd explanations for one day. Then another thought occurred to him. "I did not get you a gift. Do you want this back since I cannot properly exchange with you?"
"No!" Zack denied, sighing in exasperation. "I guess I didn't explain this very well. I'm giving this to you because I want you to have it! Not because I want something from you in return."
"Oh," Sephiroth said, still lost, but getting the intent behind Zack's actions. Still, it didn't feel right receiving something and not returning the favor; he'd have to remedy that soon. "Thank you," he said politely, lightly smoothing the material of the cloth.
"Er, you're welcome." Zack scratched his head, wondering if there was some protocol against hugging your superior officer; even if there weren't, he wasn't quite sure how Sephiroth would react. "Uh, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then, General. Don't stay up here too late."
"Goodnight," he said, already mulling over a possible solution to this situation.
Acquiring the items necessary for reciprocation couldn't be too hard.
The next day, Sephiroth found himself expectantly awaiting Zack's usual entrance to his office, the objects he'd purchased the night before sitting under his desk.
The door opened, and Zack seemed almost surprised to find himself being almost immediately under the direct scrutiny of the General, who usually ignored his presence in favor of paperwork.
"Uh, Sephiroth, sir? Is something wrong?"
Silently, the General reached under the desk and pulled out a bag, which he held in Zack's direction before inclining his head.
The First Class blinked before tentatively stepping forward to grasp the bag, his eyes questioning and slightly wide. "What's this?"
"I believe you should 'open it and see,'" was all he got in answer.
Grinning, Zack peered into the bag. To Sephiroth's amusement, the dark-haired man suddenly chuckled, his hand diving into the paper to bring out a decorative card that said simply, "Happy Holidays!"
The next gift was a mixed pack of plain cotton socks that had Zack's lips twitching as he fought not to outright laugh.
Unsurprisingly, Zack pulled the last item out, which was a cream-colored box from Abyssian's, one of Midgar's top jewelers. His smile dropped into a look of awe as the opened box revealed an ornate blue materia shard shaped into an earring. Materia cutting was a practice that not many people could indulge in because of the high pressure needed to pierce the substance, so he knew that Sephiroth had met the 'expensive' requirement that he'd so casually mentioned.
"It is not suitable for casting, but I was informed that it is an appropriate gift to show appreciation."
"You know, Sephiroth," he started, still not quite sure whether to return the gifts or accept them, but flattered all the same,"usually, one gift is more than enough, and one of these days, I've really gotta teach you what a figure of speech is."
Sephiroth gave a faint frown. "You told me that those were acceptable gifts; I am sorry I could not properly wrap them so that you could 'rip them a new one,' but my attempts proved to be unsuccessful."
This time Zack did laugh, and he knew Sephiroth was confused about why he was laughing, but he could barely breathe, let alone explain. The image of perfect, calm, cool Sephiroth trying to wrap socks, and gift card, and a tiny jewelry box and failing…
Having the General for a friend was the most amazing thing on the Planet.