This may have been my longest no-Decorum hiatus ever. Well, when you see what this one is about, you may understand why I was hesitant to begin it at all. Also, I came up with good Tseng-nicknames for my cooperative Turk friends Amaya and Kiisa, then promptly lost them, so what I ended up using isn't that funny. I hope you guys will forgive me! (By forgive, I mean not kill.)
For all your patience in waiting for this, for all your kind comments, for the friendship you've all shown me and the Choir, I thank you.
I own what I own, Nomura owns his awesome sexual fantasies...I mean characters. Yes, characters.
Choir!Zack, you've come a long way, being in denial about how much you love Angeal and only coming to terms with it recently. I'm very happy you two are finally together, and glad that among all the writing of mine you've disliked, the Decorums have always been the one thing I could make you smile with. I'm sorry I can't do it this time.
Part of the Decorum Series
"Is that okay? Am I hurting you?"
"No...c'mon, I can take more."
"Just a little bit more, then, slowly."
"Unh, that feels good...c'mon, I'm not gonna break, Angeal."
"You need to relax more. Don't clench so tight, just breathe and let me do the work."
In a rare display of shock (of any emotion, really), Sephiroth's jaw was hanging slightly open as he stood facing the door to one of the small, private training rooms. There was no question in his mind who those voices belonged to - Angeal was his oldest living friend, he would recognize Zack's familiar moan anywhere, and this was exactly the location the pair was supposed to be in at this time. But it couldn't be, couldn't possibly be what the words and noises implied. Zack and Angeal behaved as though they were parent and child, and they denied the persistent rumor and supposition of a sexual relationship between them, Zack with severe annoyance, Angeal with protective amusement.
Against the backdrop of his actual trust in both of them, old insecurities rose up from a dark place the general thought he'd discarded. Jealousy of Angeal for having loved Zack first, for having had him close for longer and for sharing with him an entirely different kind of bond. Feelings of self-doubt, thoughts that he might not be capable of loving Zack as infinitely as the boy deserved. A gentle guilt, for knowing that Zack would vehemently deny that he was being neglected in any way.
But...then what... Another moan hardened his puzzlement into possessive jealousy, and Sephiroth flung the door open, clutching a fistful of leather coat to keep from reaching for Masamune.
Teacher and student both looked up, with what seemed to be innocence. Zack was on his back on the mat floor, legs bent up so his toes were brushing the space around his head. Angeal had one hand on each calf and appeared to be holding Zack in this position. Both were fully clothed, and Sephiroth felt a twinge of something as he recognized an exercise to strengthen flexibility.
"Hey, Seph," Angeal said carefully, wondering if something was wrong.
Zack, having done the same analysis but with greater understanding, hurriedly swatted his mentor's propping hands away. "Hi, Seph."
"Not so fast, you'll strain something."
"I'm fine - ow." In his haste to get up, Zack did indeed experience a painful muscle twinge in his back and down his thighs. He plopped back onto the mat and pouted. "I think you broke me."
"You broke yourself. Do you want a Potion?"
"I'm getting you a Potion."
"Stop fussing already, I'm - ow."
"I told you not to sit up. I'll be right back. Seph, keep him down for me, please."
Once Angeal was gone, Zack's frown shifted into a mischievous smile. "Yeah, Seph, keep me down."
Pushing aside for the moment everything but love and want, the general knelt beside him, flattening his hands against the mat on either side of Zack's head and letting his long hair be felt like a silken rainfall. Zack shivered as the strands brushed his face and neck, growled softly when they were pushed aside and reached up eagerly to embrace when Sephiroth kissed him. Arching up elicited soft cries of pain, but the 2nd did it anyway, until Sephiroth pressed a hand to his chest to keep him still.
"Do you think we have enough time before Angeal comes back?" Zack whispered against his cool cheek.
"I don't. And I don't believe you'd truly run the risk of Angeal walking into such a thing."
"Fair enough...but I want you."
"And I you, every moment." Sephiroth's lips descended to explore his neck, nudging Zack's head up until the top of it nearly touched the floor. "We can have each other tonight, all night."
"Gaia, now I won't be able to think of anything else today."
"This differs from your usual routine?"
Zack snickered at that and grabbed the nape of Sephiroth's neck, pulled him down and held him there for a long kiss. He only let go, with a sheepish laugh, when Angeal announced his returned presence with a cough. Sephiroth sat back but didn't withdraw as Angeal crouched at the boy's other side. The general watched, entertained, his old friend lift Zack's head and put the opened vial to his lips. For now, rather than inciting jealousy in Sephiroth, he felt comforted to know that Zack was so loved by another person. That even if something happened to him, Angeal's presence would continue to be a constant, an endless source of affection.
Zack, of course, was having none of it. "I'm fiiiine, you freak, do ya have to do this in front of Seph?"
"If Seph hasn't learned by now what a brat you can be, he needs to," Angeal said patiently. "C'mon, Puppy, the healing will already be delayed, since this is on top of that injury from last week. Do you really want extra hours of ordered rest?"
"Extra? Uh-uh, no rest, Hitchcock promised to spar with me today!"
"Then you'd better hurry up and drink."
"Injury?" Sephiroth broke in, feeling slightly lost. "You took an injury? Why was I not told?"
Zack swallowed quickly and let his head back down with a wince. It was no big deal. Lieutenant Evans caught me with one of his knives during a duel. Split some of the muscle in my lower back, messed up some nerves, it sucked, Medical kept me in bed all day and Evans thought Angeal was gonna kill him. But, y'know, the wonders of materia. Couple Cures fixed it up."
"You were on that mission in Daora," Angeal said. "Zack was afraid you'd be distracted or rush back if you heard he was hurt. But I had thought he would tell you when you returned."
"I was not informed, no."
"Puppy, everyone gets injured. Sephiroth wouldn't think any less of you over something like this."
"Of course I wouldn't." Without knowing exactly why, Sephiroth found himself squeezing Zack's hand tighter until a soft noise of pain told him to stop. "But you must be careful."
"I know. I'm sorry I worried you. Both." Twin gazes of love, similar in intensity if not in intent, told Zack he was forgiven. He replied with a charming grin, which quickly disappeared when he tried to sit up and choked back a whimper. "I'm okay."
"You need to stay off your feet until the full healing effects have reached the injury. And I want someone in Medical to take a look, just in case. Stop wiggling, Pup, you're only hurting yourself. Please. For me."
Zack had begun to react to being picked up as he usually did, with squirming and a stream of ignored protests. He dutifully went still when asked, not because of the increased, sharp pain so much as because he hated seeing Angeal upset.
"Thank you. The sooner this is taken care of, the better your chances of getting to kick Hitchcock's butt within the next week."
"You can't pout us both into submission, Puppy."
"Can," Zack grumbled, but he had pretty much surrendered, resting his head against his mentor's shoulder and idly poking the muscles beneath Angeal's sweater. "Look, if you're gonna insist I be carried like a girl, can't you at least let Seph do it?"
Sephiroth quickly took in Angeal's smile and Zack's relaxed gesture of swinging his feet, unable to keep still even to avoid further pain. "I believe I am content to delegate this task to Commander Hewley."
"Thank you for your trust, General." Angeal looked at him pointedly, making Sephiroth wonder if he had in fact noticed the brief moment of suspicion earlier.
Zack used Angeal's sweater to muffle his snicker.
The medical lab was just coming out of one of its high-traffic times when they arrived. Two 3rds, treated for minor duel-related injuries, were exiting the area just in time to stiffly salute and gape in awe at Angeal and Sephiroth, who waved them on. In the waiting room, Zack saw a Turk he was friendly with and inquired about the bandage on her hand.
"From a broken coffee pot," Kiisa explained. "My partner thought it might be funny to let Reno switch our usual coffee with the cheap stuff, again. Tseng didn't find it amusing." Her serious face went slightly pink when she mentioned her boss.
"Pity Amaya. She's been ordered to clean up the whole mess with a toothbrush."
"I bet it'll be Tseng's toothbrush."
Kiisa smile, put a finger to her lips and said "Ssh."
Dr. Cowan, the one who had overseen Zack's treatment after his injury, poked his head out of a private exam room and scanned the waiting area. His gaze fell on ShinRa's top SOLDIERs (who were hard to miss in any crowd), and on the rather pathetic bundle in Angeal's arms. The doctor quickly said something to the closest nurse and waved the three of them over. Even from a distance, they could all see him rolling his eyes.
"I knew you'd be back, Fair! Well, come on, I've had a bed ready for you."
Sephiroth raised an eyebrow at Zack, who merely pouted with an indignant "Hmph". Angeal led the way, careful not to jostle Zack more than necessary and luckily already used to maneuvering through crowds with care, a necessary skill for a large man. They passed the small pharmacy window and brushed by Lieutenant Zane, ShinRa's resident materia master, who looked on edge as usual and clutched a bottle of pills in a white paper bag. Zane's beady eyes fixed on Zack's spiky, disarrayed, chocobo-like hair and raised a hand to touch it. He hastily withdrew and sped off, though, at one warning glare from Angeal.
"Thanks for that, Commander. Zane may be brilliant, but he gives me the willies. Set him down right there." Cowan waved at the padded table and shut the door. "And don't worry about being gentle. Maybe a bit more pain will teach Fair to follow my discharge instructions."
"Doc, really, I - "
"That's enough out of you," the physician barked, and stuffed a wad of clean gauze in the boy's mouth. "Didn't I tell you? Nothing but stretches and light exercise for a week. You push yourself, you risk tearing the regrown muscle while it's still fragile. And did you listen? Of course not! What do you have to say for yourself?"
Wide blue eyes looked up in a plea for leniency, accompanying the pitiful and unintelligible sound of muffled speech. Sephiroth stood nearby, cat-like on the balls of his feet, torn between his usual practice of letting his SOLDIERs be scolded for neglecting their safety and the uncertainty of whether or not it would be appropriate to defend Zack here and now. Also, there was the automatic displeasure at seeing someone else handle Zack, which he shoved aside; he would not fault a doctor for merely doing his job. If Angeal was wavering as well, he came to a decision quickly. With one hand soothingly petting Zack's hair, he looked at the doctor and spoke.
"Zack may have overdid it, but he was not being reckless. We were only stretching."
"Hmph," Cowan scoffed, but allowed Angeal to remove the gauze without protest. "And what about the rest of this past week?"
"I've taken him off active duty and told him to rest, but I'm afraid I can't keep both eyes on Zack every moment."
"Have you considered a leash?"
"Grown-ups are talking," Cowan said shortly, and kept the boy still with a look of warning while he used Medical Sense materia to do a detailed scan.
Sephiroth looked at Angeal, who nodded reassurance before putting his focus back on his student. Though pouting, Zack had shut his eyes and was breathing slowly. To control the pain, Sephiroth guessed, and resolved not to interrupt. He took the time to study Cowan, a spry man in his late middle age with sharp eyes and a weathered face that looked grumpy even in kindness. He had been with ShinRa longer than anyone else in the medical department, largely taken over as Angeal's physician after Dr. Hollander's disappearance, and so he wasn't easily awed and treated everyone with the same gruffness. Even more so for those he was fond of, Sephiroth had been told, and remembered when the doctor simultaneously glared and smiled at Angeal's hovering.
This was difficult, this waiting, this having to stand by helplessly and be unable to do anything for Zack. Sephiroth began to watch the sky-blue materia suspended over Zack's chest, rotating slowly as it gathered the intricate data of the boy's medical status. It took longer to do a full scan or a scan particular to one body part with this materia than it took to do almost any other kind of magic, making it all but useless in the field, but for the diagnosis of ailments it was invaluable. Sephiroth studied the ribbons of tiny numbers swirling inside the orb, looking for a pattern and trying to decipher the information before it could be displayed on the nearby screen. His concentration was disturbed by the feeling of being stared at, and he looked at Cowan.
"Sorry," the doctor said, removing the materia as it finished and not sounding the least bit embarrassed. "You're easy on the eyes, General."
Sephiroth blinked. "On what eyes?" Usually he was described as complicated, not simple.
Angeal covered his laugh with a hand. Eyes still closed, Zack frowned and mumbled "Better just be your eyes, old man."
"I heard that, you brat. Also, I'm heterosexual and married, and even were I not, I have neither the energy nor the idiocy to interfere with young love."
Cowan walked briskly over to the display screen and looked over its contents, able to read and understand what looked impossibly complex to the others (though not as much to Sephiroth). The general took the opportunity to move closer to Zack, taking the hand Angeal had not already claimed and finding it clammy and trembling.
"Does it hurt?" he asked quietly, knowing the answer already but unable to ask how much.
Blue eyes opened for him, and squinted slightly even though the stark medical light wasn't overly bright. "I'm okay," Zack said in a strained voice. "I'll always be with you two hovering over me, right?"
"Doctor," Angeal said, abrupt and forceful.
"Of course." Cowan must have understood. He hurried across the room to retrieve something.
"I'm unsure of what to do," Sephiroth said quietly, trying to let only Zack hear the timid confession.
"Just don't let go of me. That's all I need you to do." Zack opened his eyes wide to see above him without risking movement, and held a weak, brave smile as his eyelashes brushed a familiar hand on his forehead. "Angeal, I'm okay."
"Don't worry about me, Puppy. If it helps you to look at Seph, do it."
Sephiroth lost his breath for an instant when Zack's eyes locked on to him. They were so beautiful, usually a pale rainwater blue but now, as always when Zack was feeling something strong, their color blazed outward like a turquoise fire. The color of deep water, of depths heavy with emotion and secrets, a more complicated side of Zack than cloudless skies and childish pouts. Zack was completely focused on his face, and Sephiroth returned the stare with such gentleness and love that it was like a cocoon the boy could hide himself in. He blinked but didn't wince when a needle pricked his right arm.
"You'll start to feel better now, Fair." Zack was too absorbed in Sephiroth to reply to that, which made the doctor laugh a low chuckle. "I'm sorry, you two, are the commander and I keeping you from something you'd rather be doing?"
Clearly this was meant to be humorous, Cowan's voice indicated this, but Sephiroth still felt a bit stung by the implication, and hastened to reassure them - especially Angeal. "Regardless of what I want, he is injured. I would not risk further damage by attempting sex now."
Cowan blinked rapidly at that, but went back to the display screen before his expression could be studied. Angeal had flinched but mostly recovered, and his face held something like the understanding of an exasperated big brother. Zack groaned softly, but where there would normally be embarrassment or a scramble to direct the conversation elsewhere, there was only relief and peace on his fine-boned face. Sephiroth knew little about this kind of injury - he'd never been this close to someone who could be routinely injured, not as an adult, not since Angeal and Genesis were kids - but the doctor didn't seem to be in much of a hurry. Surely that was a good sign. And Zack had relaxed, his eyes were nearly closed, though his grip didn't loosen on either hand.
"Okay..." The doctor was pulling over a complicated-looking machine that sat on a rolling table. "Nerve repair requires concentration, which requires room, so one of you can stay, but the other, out."
Sephiroth looked at Angeal, feeling he should excuse himself in favor of the more experienced, reassuring presence, but not wanting to. Angeal smiled, understanding.
"You stay, Seph. I've got things to do anyway, mission preparations."
"Are you sure?" Sephiroth's voice, while calm and level, intimated that he was the one feeling uncertain.
"You're doing fine, Seph," Angeal said gently. "More than fine. Zack is happy, so are you. You're not deficient in anything, except maybe confidence."
Angeal lightly nudged Sephiroth's shoulder with his fist and tried to leave, but Zack, who was asleep, was still tightly clutching his hand. With an indulgent laugh, the commander pried him off, which woke Zack, and he blinked tiredly and made a questioning noise.
"It's okay, Puppy. I've got to go, but Seph will be with you. I might be gone before you wake up, and if so, I'll see you in a few days. Be good and listen to the doctor, okay?"
"'Mkay," Zack said vaguely. "But I wanna go with you. I can help."
"You can help me by recovering and looking after Seph. I'll call when I can, and I'll be checking with the other 1sts, so no strenuous activity, because I will find out. And no chasing cars."
"Forgetting t' repress again...you freak..."
Chuckling, Angeal swept Zack's spikes back and quickly kissed his forehead. "Love you, kid," he said, very quietly, and Sephiroth thought the two of them looked more alike than he'd ever noticed before. Other people had commented on Angeal and Zack's resemblance to each other; those who didn't spread the rumor that they were lovers even wondered if they might actually be father and son. That was ridiculous, Sephiroth knew - Angeal was too young and their blood types were incompatible. They couldn't be related, though, the general mused, being biologically linked was not the only way to be family. One of the many lessons he had learned from Angeal.
"See you, Seph."
"Be careful." He threaded his fingers into Zack's hair where Angeal's hand had previously been. "You need not worry for him."
"All right," Cowan said when Angeal had finally left, "help me turn him over."
"You are going to repair the nerves Zack has retorn?" Sephiroth asked as he complied, gently settling the boy on his stomach.
"Between you and me, General, he's done no more than strain them. But if I tell him that, the brat will think he doesn't need to be more careful. I'll perform a Cure2, then I'm gonna keep him out for the rest of the day. Tonight, I'll dose him again, and you can put him to bed. When he wakes up, if he can manage to not be an idiot for two days, he should be as good as new."
Sephiroth blinked twice. "You propose to keep Zack unconscious until tomorrow?"
"I'm sure all of ShinRa will thank me for the quiet. He'll be fine here if you've got other business."
"Nothing that cannot wait. I would prefer to stay with him," Sephiroth said, softly rubbing his hand over Zack's shoulder. "But is this not dishonest?"
"All's fair in love and war, and you SOLDIERs are equally impossible in both," Cowan said gruffly, spreading a chessboard out on Zack's lower back. "Now, why not match your famous strategic genius against a former grand master?"
Life would be so much easier without SOLDIER, Tseng thought as he finished reading and updating yet another report. Even setting aside the traditional rivalry between their two departments, part of the Turks' job was to protect ShinRa assets, and that included SOLDIERs. Important missions like the one Hewley was out on were a pain, requiring Turk surveillance of the dispatched in the field and constant communication with HQ, so the president could always count on his Turks for the most up-to-date reports. They had a reputation to uphold, after all.
Tseng drained his coffee (the right kind, no need to spank Reno today) and shouted a stream of Old Wutainese to the outer office, exclamations that supposedly meant "Fangirl One and Fangirl Two!" but were actually more like "Moving Target! If Only I Weren't Gay!" Two young blond women in snug black suits came to the open door, one straight-haired, the other curly. Tseng, without any change of expression or warning, hurled his coffee mug at the latter as hard as he could.
Amaya, living up to her nickname, lightly stepped aside, and Kiisa ducked. The mug smashed into tiny fragments against the door jamb, and Amaya blinked at the mess, as though unsure where it came from, then narrowed her eyes at her boss. This particular glare had the strange effect of making Tseng feel like his testicles were trying to retreat into his body. (This probably originated with a department snowball fight that Tseng preferred not to remember.)
"What would you do if you ever actually hit us?" she asked in a light, faraway voice.
"Advertise your positions in the Help Wanted section," Tseng began to say, and snatched up his bullet-proof blotter as a shield barely in time to hear several dangerous-sounding things hit it. Once he deemed it safe, he turned the useful object around and found all of Amaya's hidden daggers sticking out of it, forming a neat line where his eyes would have been. And a more unexpected weapon was on his desk, having apparently bounced off.
"Why did you throw your gun at me?"
"I didn't, sir."
"I ran out of knives," Amaya said, blue eyes wide and misty.
"I suppose I should thank you."
"Not so fast, sir," Kiisa said with a small, business-like smile. "You forgot I carry two guns."
She gestured to the brass nameplate on the desk. A series of small bullet holes had altered a letter 'k' to a 'd', so that it now read 'Commander Tseng, Head Turd'.
"Son of a whore," Tseng said in Old Wutainese, loudly and without malice.
"Did you call, Boss?"
"I said 'son of a whore', not 'manwhore'."
Reno shrugged where he had come to stand, between the girls. "I don't fuckin' speak your weirdo language. If ya don't need me - "
"Actually, you've saved me the trouble of sending them to find you."
Reno looked at Amaya, then Kiisa, and shivered.
"Rude is late reporting in. By nearly fifteen minutes, and that is very unlike him."
"Well, that's what you get for separating us. He becomes less dependable when we're apart, and I don't have anyone to carry me to the toilet and hold my hair back."
"Deal with your codependency issues on your own time."
"Mr. Sharpy thinks you should just start sleeping with him," Amaya said, referring to the larger knife in her belt, "since everyone assumes you do anyway."
"That's not entirely true, Aya, be fair," Kiisa smirked. "There is that rumor about him being helicopter-sexual."
"Oh yeah...who started that one?"
"We did, remember?"
"Okay, first," Reno broke in, scowling, "Rude's the size of a zolom and anyone who rides that would end up the width of the Northern Crater. Secondly, it was one time, I was wasted, and in the dark a chopper's altitude lever can feel an awful lot like a - "
Tseng pulled a grenade from his top drawer, yanked the pin out and threw. Reno caught it faster than a civilian would have been able to see and whipped it out the open window, toward the office across the courtyard. Heidegger's pig-like squeal preceded a low boom and a series of crashes.
"Reno, if you'd be so kind - "
"Yeah yeah, Boss, I'm on it." Reno took out his cell phone and punched 'Speed-dial', then '1'.
"What do you think happened?" Amaya softly asked her partner.
"I don't know. Commander Hewley is usually very strict about having updates sent promptly, and I set my watch by Rude." Kiisa frowned thoughtfully, tapping her fingers against the small sketchpad in her pants pocket. "Something else bothers me, too. My intel was perfect, I know the terrorists at least have a base at the location we sent them to. They should've found something by now."
"Tsengy should've let me go with them. I'm better at finding explosives than any scanner," Amaya grumbled seriously, then brightened. "I bet Rude's fine. He's probably stuck listening to Angeal talk about Zack. If he has pictures with him we might never see Rude again. I call dibs on his sunglasses collection."
Kiisa laughed too, though the mirth of it didn't reach her eyes. "I want his sound system."
"Speaking of pictures, I haven't been able to get any good footage of Sephy and Zack,"Amaya sighed. "Sephy either found my cameras or has something magnetic in his bedroom that disrupts the feed."
"General Sephiroth, Aya."
"Where the fuck are you?" Reno's voice was higher than normal, and the rest of them froze, because it had taken longer than it should have for Rude to answer. "Shit - wait - repeat that. How many? Okay, and - who? Are they sure?"
"Reno, what?" Tseng waited a moment, then went around his desk and lightly shook the younger by the arm. "Reno."
"I'm fiiine, I promise. Sexual frustration is unhealthy for someone my age, it causes distraction and mood swings and - "
" - a great deal of gratitude when all this tension is finally released?"
"Well...yeah...but really, I'm okay."
Sephiroth smiled and continued to carefully massage Zack's lower back, his hands under the T-shirt he'd made Zack leave on so as not to be tempted. Not that Zack wasn't tempting anyway, spread out face-down across the general's bed, skin impossibly soft, purring with appreciation and turning his head to smile.
"C'mon, I listened to the doc, it doesn't hurt anymore. It's not fair to keep me in this bed and make me waste it by sleeping."
"Zack, I want more from you than just sex," Sephiroth said suddenly, wondering if the younger knew that.
"I know that, Seph," Zack said just as seriously. "But can you not say that sort of thing around Angeal?"
"That I want you for more than sex?"
Zack's groan held a hint of a laugh. "That you have sex with me at all."
"I'm fairly certain he knows."
"Yeah, but he doesn't like being reminded, 'kay?"
"Ah." That did make sense, considering Angeal's reactions to some of his more blunt and careless statements. "As you wish."
"That's more like it," Zack said, making his voice sultry and lifting so the hands were shifted to his ass.
"Tonight," Sephiroth promised, quickly adjusting. "If you don't strain anything by then."
"How can I strain something when you won't let me do anything?"
Sephiroth gently turned Zack over to lay on his back, listening carefully for sounds of pain and feeling for twinges in his sides and abdomen. No sign of discomfort, just pleasure to be touched, as expected of Zack. The 2nd smiled up at him adoringly and ran his fingers up and down Sephiroth's arm, not to tempt, just to touch, and Sephiroth carefully slid his hands beneath Zack to continue the massage.
"You look a little bit like him."
"Don't say 'hmm'," Sephiroth ordered with a smile.
"Right, your weirdo pet peeve. I meant 'Who?'"
"Oh, yeah," Zack laughed; Sephiroth could feel the sound echoing through the body he caressed. "People tell me that sometimes. Med lab actually did a DNA comparison to settle a bet between some of the techs, which of course showed we're not related at all. Morons. Angeal's, what, twenty-six, so he would've been eight when I was born and EW I didn't even realize what an insult that is to my mom."
Sephiroth smiled again. "I'm sure it was not intended."
"Seph? Were you and Angeal ever...you know?"
"Ever what? Sexual partners? No." The general made a disturbed face. "I have never thought of Angeal in that way, nor he of me, as far as I know. Why do you ask?"
"Just making sure. Ya know, you were touching, then you suddenly said I look like him, and you don't talk about your previous...affairs."
"They are unimportant." Sephiroth smoothed his thumbs in circles on the skin of Zack's stomach. "You are not a replacement for anything. You mean more to me than anything else ever has."
"Seph," Zack said softly. He cupped one side of the marble face, and Sephiroth grabbed his hand and kissed the palm, slowly, gently. Any further, any more than this and neither of them would be able to stop. "I love you too."
More than Angeal, Sephiroth wanted to demand, but held it back. Instead he said the next random thought that occurred to him: "If Angeal is family to me, and to you also, does that not make you and I family, of a sort?"
Zack laughed in an amused way. "Yeah, but not by blood, so we're good."
"You do not share blood with Angeal either."
"Yeah, but I might as well." Zack's gaze flickered to the ceiling and became distant, narrowing to tiny points of blue. "I wish he'd call. He usually does, especially after two days without a word."
"Once the team neared the target sight, they may have elected to impose a silence on radio and phones," Sephiroth reminded him. "We still don't completely understand the explosives the enemy use and how easily they may be set off."
Zack's face hardened with tension, briefly pushing some of the innocence out of his pretty features. Sephiroth wondered if the boy was thinking of his own run-in with the work of these unknown anti-ShinRa terrorists, the weapons cache booby-trapped with bombs and Kunsel's injury while protecting him. The investigation had proceeded sluggishly since then, with no useful witness testimony and few clues to go on. Even the resourceful Turks were struggling, having meticulously gathered and analyzed the resulting debris and come up with little but reasonable certainty that the enemy group was Wutaian and may have some connection to a radical and little-known sect of Leviathan devotees. They were using military-grade mako in their bombs, though how they obtained it was still a mystery. Their motive for attacking remained undeclared. Kiisa of the Turks had only been able to offer a possible base location because she was uncommonly gifted at pattern recognition, and had put reports of suspicious gang activity in Linar together with a warehouse in the port town, and its being frequented by the passengers of one particular ship, whose owner had been fined in the past for unauthorized mako possession. What more evidence there was, the Turks didn't disclose, as was their privilege.
But the Turks (in particular Kiisa's partner, the dreamy-eyed Amaya) had collaborated with the science department to create a more sensitive scanner than the kind that were usually utilized in hunting for unharvested Lifestream sources. After some experimenting, they had been able to isolate the temperature at which this mako's molecular structure becomes explosive. So now the improved scanners searched only for the range of temperature around that number, and thus avoided the false alarms caused by Lifestream springs, materia stores and SOLDIERs themselves.
They were all confident that it would be resolved soon, SOLDIERs and Turks alike needed to be confident in order to proceed. But it was telling that Angeal was leading this mission to ambush and capture, that his experience and skills were required. Even if Angeal was the best one for the job, it was still dangerous. Zack was not so naive that he was unaware of this.
"Angeal is the most careful person I know," Sephiroth reassured.
"Yeah." Zack smiled as a thumb brushed over his lips. "Even more, I guess, when he's not stuck having to watch me."
"Or perhaps your presence makes him even more cautious. What is that odd noise coming from my jacket?"
Zack snickered. "C'mon, no one uses a normal ring for their cell phone. I thought you should have something more fun."
Sephiroth clearly wasn't as fond of the cheerful, tinkly pop song as Zack. He got up quickly (leaving a light, playful smack on Zack's leg) and went to the chair his jacket was draped over. Removing the phone from the muffling pocket made the music's volume louder, and Sephiroth frowned before shutting it off.
"General, I think you should sit down." Commander Hitchcock's voice. No greeting, no pleasantries, no successful attempt to hide the shakiness that didn't fit the man's warm, hearty tone. It took quite a lot to genuinely alarm Sephiroth, and he was alarmed now.
"What is it?"
"Sephiroth...please sit down."
Zack was getting scared; even across the room and with his difficulty interpreting facial expressions, Sephiroth could tell. He turned to face the wall, hoping that would help, and slid soundlessly onto the chair.
"I am seated."
"Sephiroth...it's Angeal. The fuckers heard us coming and they wouldn't be taken al- and they set off everything as we came in. One explosion after another, each taking a few of them down, then all around the room, toward us, toward a pile of mako and fuel that would have blown us all to hell if Angeal hadn't...fuck. Sephiroth, I'm sorry."
"Please elucidate, Commander." Please tell me I am misunderstanding as I always do.
"He's gone, General. Dead."
Hitchcock continued to speak unsteadily, as though he were dodging gunfire rather than riding in a van back to headquarters over paved roads. Something about being on their way back, Rude of the Turks reporting to Tseng, they had the body with them, but Sephiroth absorbed and categorized this information without really hearing it. He could feel Zack's eyes boring holes into him, and turned to face the boy with a forcibly neutral expression, surprised to see deathly-white shock on Zack's. Until he remembered...of course, Zack was a SOLDIER, his senses enhanced. Zack had heard every word.
Between the shock snaking through his stomach like ice and the shattered look on Zack's face, Sephiroth's unmatched control wavered for a moment. His fingers jerked open in a violent twitch, and the phone crashed onto the desk with a bang that made neither of them jump.
...yeah. *sigh* Working on part two, will get it to you ASAP! As always, Amarissia and Choir love to hear what you think.
Zack: *shake, sniffle, hyperventilate*
Angeal: *death-grip* "I'm right here, I promise."
Sephy: *glares at me*
It had to be done!!!!! *hides*