(A/N: A little messing around with Genesis and Sephiroth's characters. Sure, they flaunt their arrogance enough. But how confident are they, really?)
"That'll be twelve sixty-three."
"Do you have a rewards card?"
"May I see your ID?"
"Would you like a gift receipt?"
"Shall I bag these for you?"
"Have a nice day."
Genesis Rhapsodos slumped over the counter with a groan as the last customer of the day flitted guilelessly through the automated glass doors, beyond which the sun had long since set. The beautiful sun that, rather than being enviously observed from afar, could have instead been tanning his skin and lighting the words printed upon the book in his satchel. But no. He was stuck in this wretched bookstore, selling books for others to enjoy in the blessed sunlight. Life was hardly fair in this respect, of that much he was certain. "Cursed walls that suspend my freedom be damned!" he cried, smacking a hand against the countertop.
"Do cease the dramatics, Genesis." The redhead was promptly pulled upward by the neckline of his red uniform vest, releasing a soft cough of protest. "I want to lock up on time for once."
"Pray tell, who made you the manager?" Genesis grumbled, smoothing out his now-wrinkled attire before casting a playful glare at his longtime friend. Somehow, the black polo shirt and crimson vest of their uniform was much more befitting of him. Professionalism didn't suit Genesis at all, in apparel or personality. Angeal huffed, drawing a ring full of keys from his belt and jingling them evidentially.
"As long as I have these, I am the acting manager of this store." Angeal smirked, holding them out of reach when his friend made a grab for them. "Ah, ah, ah! Shelve that last pile of books, would you? It all goes under the psychology section. And for future reference, the letter 'L' comes before 'O'."
Genesis sneered, taking care to stick his tongue out at the man before scooping up the reference volumes in one arm and rounding the register counter with a grimace. He had thought a job at a bookstore would be by far the least painful means by which to pay off the expenses of his higher education. It had taken him a single customer and ten minutes in front of a cash register to realize that, despite his affections for literature, he was not meant for the work of a focused, clear-minded individual. As Angeal might say, his head was too full of 'romanticized drivel' and 'nonsensical gibberish'. Not that Genesis was in any position to disagree; he knew all too well that he was detached from reality. Too often had he submerged himself in fantasy, delved into the interconnectedness of fiction and truth until his perspective was rich and multidimensional. Was that really such a bad thing?
Genesis shuffled his way over worn red carpets past shelves and shelves of oak wood, relishing the somewhat eerie silence unbroken by screaming children or noisy customers who unknowingly read aloud to themselves. What he wouldn't give for a day alone with those novels lining the shelves, peace untarnished by customers… He frowned, looking down at the pile of books. What genre was he headed for? That's right, psychology. He had passed it up at least six rows ago. He backtracked a bit, thumbing his way through the volumes, occasionally scoffing at a strange name. As if he would ever trust the words of Dr. Cole Slaw, despite his PhD status. Whispering the alphabet under his breath, he pushed aside authors Ginger and Iwani to fit in Hagen before performing a swift double-take between the gaps of the shelving. Genesis' breath left him in a rush as he braced himself against the shelf to combat the weakness in his knees.
There was a man seated on the floor with his legs crossed neatly before him, eyes focused on the text in his lap. Sitting straight-backed with his head bowed, he was reminiscent of a religious icon in deep meditation. His ivory skin was complemented by the lengthy silver hair cascading over one shoulder. Slender fingers emerged from the long, black sleeves of his form-fitting shirt to flip a page. He was gorgeous. So gorgeous, Genesis allowed the remaining three books in his hands to tumble to the floor with an earsplitting crash. The stranger's head jerked upward with surprise, and Genesis reflexively ducked- only to smack his head against the lower shelf. He hissed, mouthing silent obscenities as pressed a palm against his temple. He left the texts on the floor where they were (let the morning crew worry about it), crept out from the isle, and dashed back to the register. He promptly leapt over the counter and fell to the floor, curling his arms around his knees to make himself as small as possible.
Genesis didn't realize how hard his heart was pounding until he had stilled. He shook his head, trying to gather his scattered senses. The door to the backroom opened and Genesis spared a reluctant glance upward to see Angeal staring rather strangely at him. "Wha-?"
Genesis put a finger to his lips and grabbed his friend's wrist, yanking him down to his level. "He's beautiful. I've never seen anyone like him. He made me drop the books, Angeal! He made me drop the books!"
Angeal rolled his eyes, not bothering to whisper. "Are we gonna go through this every time a guy you fancy walks into the store? Why don't you just ask him out?"
"Are you insane?" Genesis demanded, eyes wide with horror as though Angeal had suggested murder might be a respectable solution.
"Why not?" Angeal had the speech coined. "You're handsome, intelligent, charming… There's no reason you should hide under the counter every time-" He paused as the distinct sound of approaching footsteps could be heard. Angeal's lips melted into a devious smile that made Genesis' mouth go dry. "Be right back. Gotta put in a quick order."
"Wait, Angeal, don't-"
But the sneaky bastard had already disappeared into the backroom, locking the door behind him for good measure. "Fucking-!" The footsteps were coming closer… closer… closer… It's okay. Maybe he won't buy the book. Maybe he just came to browse. Maybe he'll just steal the damn book. I won't stop him.
Genesis jolted, stumbling upward and brushing his uniform into order. "Um, hi! Hi there!" It was the beautiful stranger. Standing at his full height, the few inches that separated them gave the man the illusion of towering over him. His body was well-formed and lean, obviously not an idle one. One look into the man's radiant green eyes had Genesis placing a hand above his heart to see if it was still beating.
The man's flawless features creased with confusion as he held up the text in his hand. "I'd like to make a purchase, if that's alright?" he asked slowly, as though prompting an unresponsive partner onstage. His baritone voice was deep and silky and soft and it's very tone made Genesis' heart skip a beat.
"Ah! Yes, yes. Of course, please…" Genesis reached a little too enthusiastically for the book. "Do you have a card?" he forced the question from his lips as he scanned the text. "A rewards card, I mean."
"No." The man had turned his attention to something behind Genesis, as if he couldn't be bothered to make eye contact. One hand seemed to be dipping into his pocket in search of something. After a moment of searching, he withdrew his wallet and held out his credit card for the man to swipe.
Genesis swallowed hard. "That comes out to thirty-six, fifty-two. Can I see your identification?" The words felt strange in his mouth, as if they were from a foreign language he was trying to mimic.
With another flick of his wrist, the man produced a striking likeness of himself in the form of a university student ID. Genesis squinted at the name. 'Sephiroth'. He forgot to check whether it matched the name on the credit card. "Are you a university student?" At the man's quizzical expression, he quickly explained, "I just, uh, I can set you up with a fifteen percent discount. If you could enter in your PIN and sign below…"
"Thank you." Sephiroth, as he was hereby dubbed, slid his cards back into his wallet. Their fingers brushed as he took the electronic pen into his hand, leaving Genesis' hand tingling. Sephiroth leaned over to attend to the PIN pad. Thin silver tresses pooled on the counter, and Genesis ached to take them between his fingers to see if they felt as silky as they looked. Sephiroth straightened and stared expectantly at him.
"Oh! Um-" Genesis fingers pressed the buttons by sheer motor memory, printing the receipt and handing it over. "Can I bag this for you?"
"No, thanks." For some reason, Genesis' heart fell as though this refusal of his bagging skills was a personal rejection. As Sephiroth tucked the book under his arm and turned away, Genesis bit back a sigh. Another wasted opportunity. Oh, well. Better than being the laughingstock of an empty bookstore. His eyes followed the man blessed with heaven's idea of the word 'beauty' as he strode swiftly toward the automated doors. Sephiroth paused just as the doors parted for him, reaching into his pocket to pull out a buzzing cellphone. He flipped it open and held it up to his ear. "Hello?" He inclined his head a bit, and his eyes met Genesis'. It was too late for the redhead to look away; the damage had been done. But Sephiroth… smiled at him. Smiled and nodded. Genesis returned the gesture, wondering if his smile looked as idiotic as it felt. "Hmm, what's that?" Their eye contact was broken as Sephiroth turned away and spoke into his phone. "Yeah. Yeah, I have it. I'm on my way." Sephiroth made his way out of the store and Genesis was left staring at the empty air.
Angeal reappeared almost instantly by his side, leaning against the counter and shaking his head in reprimand. "Honestly, Genesis. You spit out romantic gibberish all day and the second you see a handsome guy, you're all tongue-tied."
"The angel doth smile upon me in my darkest hour. He stealeth my heart, replacing it with pulsing desire." Genesis stared dreamily at the place where Sephiroth once stood.
"Exactly what I mean. Why not throw all that around?" Angeal approached the computer with the intent of shutting it down.
"He goes to the university," Genesis spoke absently, twirling a rouge strand of hair between his fingers.
"Maybe you'll see him around campus sometime."
'Sometime'. The very word implied never. "No," Genesis mumbled, running a hand through his hair. A common gesture when the young man was in distress. "Do you see him? Even if he did swing that way, there's no way he could be single. Probably some hetero socialite with a pissy attitude." But that smile… It took Genesis a good few seconds to realize Angeal was laughing. "What?" he demanded, whirling around to find Angeal hunched over the computer, making no effort to mask his amusement.
"Gen, did you even look at the book he bought?"
"Ah..." Come to think of it, he hadn't. "Why, what-?" He pushed Angeal out of the way and read the foremost highlighted purchase. Critical Sociology: Queer Theory and Modernist Fiction. "That doesn't mean anything!" Genesis snapped, a wave of both disappointment and excitement intermingling in his chest. He rubbed his forehead where he'd bumped it early, sensing an oncoming headache.
"I told you to ask him out," Angeal continued with a shrug, reaching over Genesis to shut the computer down. "You could at least use the practice. If you weren't as shy as you-"
"I am not shy! I just didn't think it was appropriate to ask someone on a date while I'm on the clock."
"Oh, so you can use the office computer to type out your essay when there's fifteen people in line, but you can't ask a guy out to coffee when the shop's deserted?"
"I forget about an assignment one time and I never hear the end of it!"
"Look, all I'm saying is that this guy could have said 'yes'. He could have said 'yes' and been a total numbskull, or he could have been the most intellectually stimulating conversationalist you've ever met. But you don't know, do you? Because you didn't ask." Angeal sighed, reaching underneath the counter and dragging out two backpacks. He tossed one to Genesis and slung the other over this shoulder. The sternness in his face made Genesis want to hide underneath the register once more. It was becoming a bad habit of his. "Honestly, Genesis. You'd be a great catch for someone. You can't tell me you don't see the way some people look at you. And what's on the surface isn't even half of what's so great about you. People are intimidated by it. You need to start taking initiative. Live up to all of that confidence you throw around." Angeal started for the door, leaving Genesis to follow somewhat ashamedly in his footsteps.
It was two weeks before Sephiroth made another appearance. When he did, he was walking with another man's arm thrown around his shoulders. The sight made Genesis queasy. His boyfriend perhaps? The latest hookup? Genesis had been sitting behind the register, minding his own business and reading a poetry anthology from the latest shipment. (What? Business was slow!) They came waltzing in an hour before closing time, and the man with spiky raven hair was talking loudly enough to wake the dead. Genesis had half a mind to pull a librarian persona on him to get him to shut up, but his irritation was washed away by shock when he saw Sephiroth. Genesis' heart skipped a beat as the couple headed straight toward the register, and it took every ounce of his self-control not to pick up the phone and pretend to make a call to break his self-induced tension.
"Heya!" The spiky-haired man offered Genesis a gesture between a salute and a wave. "Is Angeal in?"
Genesis frowned, his gaze shifting between the newcomers. "One second." He rose and opened the room to the cramped closet-office, furnished with a single desk littered in shipment records. Angeal sat in the chair looking extremely bored, listening to the telephone's loudspeaker inform him in an automated voice that they 'appreciated his patience' and would 'forward him to the next available representative'. Genesis moved aside so that Angeal could catch a glimpse of Sephiroth and Sephiroth's… friend.
Angeal brow furrowed momentarily, his eyes fixed on Sephiroth in recollection before facing the black-haired man. "It's good to see you, Zack. What's up?"
"Seph n' I are working on a project," the one named Zack announced, jerking his head toward his companion with a smile. "We're pitching a presentation at the end of the month to our seminar leader, and we need to get some research done. I was hoping you could point us in the right direction."
"Right, you told me about it. The portrayal of homosexuality in modern literature, right? I'm a little busy at the moment," Angeal spoke, pointing at the phone which was still spouting automated nonsense. "But Genesis here knows this store like the back of his hand. He'll give you all the help you need."
"That'd be really great!" Zack enthused, tilting his head in a 'pretty please' manner. Meanwhile, Genesis could only breathe a sigh of relief. They were doing a school project together, nothing more. Sephiroth may yet be a single man. It took him a few seconds to realize what Angeal had volunteered him for. Then, horror pinched his lungs.
"Hang on, come into the backroom first." Angeal stood, kicking aside a few cardboard boxes before choosing one to shuffle through. "I think I have a book that might help."
"Sweet!" Zack sat on the counter and pulled himself over, launching past a bewildered redhead and into the backroom. The door slammed shut behind him, and Genesis' lethargic brain realized much too late what was happening: Angeal was giving him another shot. He turned back to Sephiroth, who stood politely averting his eyes with his arms folded at his chest.
Here goes nothing. "So, this is a project for the university? What degree are you studying?" For some reason, Genesis did not feel as proud of himself as Angeal had led him to believe. Instead, he contemplated what drowning himself might feel like. Probably similar to that icy, snug feeling currently wrapping around his lungs.
Sephiroth gave a small start at the sound of Genesis' voice, but answered immediately. "Psychology. The course is Psychology and Sexual Behavior."
"Oh, that's interesting." Could I sound anymore generic? "Why homosexuality?" He pried a little, hoping he sounded politely interested rather than inquisitive as to the man's personal sexuality.
"I was here researching topics last week," Sephiroth explained, shifting his weight onto his foremost leg as he uncrossed his arms. "There seemed to be ample resources on the subject. Naturally, Zack was keen on choosing the most interesting of them all." Sephiroth rolled his eyes, a fond smile pulling at his lips.
Genesis chuckled, just slightly leaning forward over the counter. "You aiming to be one of those clinical psychologists? I think I'd go psycho myself if I had to sit around listening to people's problems all day."
Sephiroth chuckled, taking a step closer and resting a single hand near the register. He was close enough so that Genesis could visually distinguish his individual strands of hair, each silver lock glistening to form that remarkable sheen that reflected the light so enticingly. "I should much rather engage in social psychology. Humankind and behaviorism fascinates me."
"We humans are a queer bunch." Genesis bit back a smile at his play on words. "I'm actually majoring in literature at the university, and I've taken a few courses on the contemporary novel. If you-"
"Thanks for your help, Angeal!" Zack burst through the door, his smile magnified a thousand-fold. "I think we're going to rock this little project!" He turned to Genesis, cerulean eyes bright with more enthusiasm than was warranted for a seminar presentation. "Show us the gayest isle you've got!"
Genesis raised his eyebrows, his gaze still locked into Sephiroth's. "I can do that." He had directed Zack and Sephiroth to the section on homosexuality and its related studies with the intention of escaping back to the register and interrogating Angeal. However, Zack seemed keen on stretching his expertise to its limits.
"Genesis? Do you know of any novels that would exemplify this principle? Could you go grab them?"
"Do you think this passage demonstrates homophobia or tolerance? You could read it either way, really, couldn't you?"
"How would I cite this in the seminar paper?"
"Do you have any texts on the relationship between feminism and lesbian identity?"
"Would you say there's been an increase or decrease in the sales of homosexual-themed erotic literature over the past few years? Do you have some sales records we could reference?"
The boy has no shame, Genesis realized in some odd, admiring way as he listened to Zack read aloud from a highly pornographic excerpt. They three of them sat in a circle in the middle of the isle, piles of books stacked all around them. Sephiroth seemed to merely dismiss his comrade's behavior with a roll of the eyes, or a much-preferred secret smile shared with Genesis. The redhead couldn't help but watch the dynamic between the two; Zack did most of the talking and figuring while Sephiroth organized the notes, voicing potential weaknesses and arguments which would require Genesis to run off to another section of the store and retrieve a book. All-in-all, much to his relief, Sephiroth and Zack interacted more as friends than lovers. But it's not like you have the courage to make a move yourself, a nasty little voice piped up in his mind. Isn't it a little selfish to want him all for yourself when you can't even ask him out on a date?
Still, Genesis wasn't entirely sure how to approach the situation. Sephiroth hadn't indicated he was interested in men; clearly he wasn't directly opposed to the concept of it either. It was those moments when Sephiroth would reach over him to grab a book, lean to read over his shoulder, or quietly ask his opinion on something that Genesis wished he was braver. Smarter. Better looking. More charming. He could go on, but he'd really rather not.
By the end of the hour, Zack and Sephiroth had enough notes to make a three-hour presentation to the National LGBT Partnership. Zack had bounded back to Angeal to tell him all of the interesting facts he had learned (in more detail than the other cared to hear), leaving Sephiroth to help Genesis shelve the rouge books. "Oh, you don't have to do that," the redhead spoke quickly as Sephiroth stooped over to pluck the fictional novels from the stacks.
"Don't worry," Sephiroth said without turning toward him. "I've spent enough time in here to know the shelving system."
It took them quite a while to put away the many texts that Genesis had fetched over the hour. They crossed each other in the isles, muttering soft apologies if they were forced to reach around one another. Genesis' cheeks flushed as Sephiroth reached over his shoulder to slide a text on lesbian culture into the row above his head. Genesis' eyes fluttered shut; even if it was only for a moment, he could feel the warmth of Sephiroth's body. He could feel their clothes gently brush, like a lover's teasing touch. Sephiroth gasped slightly as the book slid from the shelf, aiming directly for Genesis. The redhead braced himself for the impact, but received an entirely different surprise. Sephiroth pressed up against him, their right thighs firmly locking as he moved close enough to catch and properly store the offending book. "Sorry!" The word was breathed into Genesis' ear and Sephiroth withdrew.
"No problem." The words escaped his lips in a strangely calm tone. Genesis congratulated himself on his excellent composure in spite of the fact that his brain had short-circuited and his heart was thudding itself to pieces against his chest. They completed the task at hand with no further incidents, stepping around one another with extra care. Upon rejoining Zack and Angeal at the register, Genesis was somewhat surprised to find that his legs hadn't melted and left a trail of goo behind him.
The peak of the evening was surely when Sephiroth casually touched a hand to his shoulder and said, "Thank you for all of your help today." Genesis smiled what must have been a very dumb smile. In his defense, he couldn't really feel his face. He couldn't feel anything but the strange pulsing of his heart.
It was only when he slid into the passenger seat of Angeal's car that he managed to regain the totality of his senses. "Just who is Zack anyway?" he demanded, as Angeal fiddled with his keys in the darkness of the vehicle.
"I've told you about Zack." Angeal shoved the key into the ignition and the car trembled to life, illuminating the deserted parking lot. "I tutored him last semester so he could pass his science requisites. Smart kid, but he couldn't tell you the difference between chemistry and physics. Believe me, I had no idea he was partnering up with your boyfriend for his seminar presentation."
"Shut up!" Heat flooded Genesis' cheeks as he smacked Angeal's shoulder. He folded his arms crossly, staring out the window like a scolded child. "So, they're not… together?"
"No." Angeal's voice was tinged with amusement. His eyes flickered to the rearview mirror before he began the drive back to their shared apartment. "Zack told me they live in the same flat on campus, so they decided it would be convenient to collaborate on the project. That guy, Sephiroth. What did you think of him?"
"Smart, sexy, n' sweet," Genesis muttered almost resentfully, keeping his gaze fixed out the window.
"You're allowed to be a little happier. He sounds like a dream come true."
"Like I'd have a chance with someone like him."
Angeal sighed, not bothering to launch into another speech. He settled for uttering, "You can be so oblivious, Gen."
The older man refused to respond apart from shoving the sole of his right shoe into the dashboard. Angeal's eyebrow twitched, but he said nothing.
Genesis was largely unprepared when Sephiroth and Zack showed up at the doorstep of their apartment three days later. Angeal had left for an early morning lecture, accidentally waking up Genesis on his way out. Newsflash: university students don't want to wake up at seven o' clock in the morning. Especially when they don't have to. So there Genesis sat atop the counter of the kitchenette, eating his sugary cereal rather sulkily. When there came a knock on the door, he had assumed it was a parcel he was meant to sign for. He wasn't expecting anyone, and no visitor in their right mind would stop by this early in the day. He gave little thought to answering the door dressed in a muscle shirt and a pair of sweatpants a size too big, having yet to comb out his hair or wash his face.
"Hey there, Genesis!" Zack stepped into the apartment like they were best buddies, ignoring Genesis' bewildered 'it's-too-early-for-me-to-think' stare. "I had this amazing idea last night! Okay so Sephiroth and I were thinking about doing an interview for our seminar presentation, right? Homosexuality as represented by modern authors. And I'm thinking, 'Okay, hold the phone'. Angeal's roommate is not only gay, he's majoring in literature! Duh!" Zack threw his arms up into the air, as though his magnificent discovery explained the origins of the universe. "So I texted Angeal and he said you were home and I was wondering if we could interview you!"
Genesis could have sworn the man didn't take a single breath during the entirety of that monologue. His eyes slowly shifted to Sephiroth, still standing in the hallway with an apologetic smile written on his face. "We can come back at another time," the silver-haired man added, to which Genesis vehemently shook his head.
"No! No, it's fine. Please, come in. Make yourselves at home, there are drinks in the fridge. I'll be right back." Genesis strode swiftly into the hallway and through the bedroom door, allowing his head to plant itself against the wall. Sephiroth had seen morning face. You never let anyone you fancy see your morning face! Maybe if you've been dating for months and having sex for weeks could you allow your partner a glimpse of your hideous morning reality! Genesis groaned, pulling himself away from the door and shuffling toward his wardrobe to slip into some fresh clothes. At that point, he would have rather slipped into a hole in the ground.
When he emerged from his room having tidied his appearance, Genesis caught the last few bits of their conversation. From his position in the hallway, he could see Zack was slouching on the old crème loveseat in the lounge. He had helped himself to a caffeinated soda at eight o' clock in the morning. No wonder the kid was so damn hyperactive, if that's how he treated his body. Sephiroth was the one speaking, out of sight in the kitchen: "-told you we should have called before we came. Imagine what he must think!"
"What's the problem?" Zack shrugged. "He's fine with it!"
"Not all of us run on moronic energy twenty-four hours a day."
"Moronic energy? Don't you throw chemistry terms at me!"
There was a distinct sigh that followed. Genesis cleared his throat and stepped into the room, earning a wave from Zack. The silver-haired man still had his back turned, and Genesis realized he was pouring a cup of coffee. "Oh!" When Sephiroth caught sight of him, Genesis swore that his cheeks flushed. "I, ah, made you some coffee. I hope it's okay."
Coffee was Angeal's choice beverage. Genesis hated coffee. Genesis hated the way it smelt, the way it tasted, and most of all he hated cleaning the coffee pot. But Genesis would have drunk a hundred gallons of the stuff if Sephiroth had made it for him. So he rounded the counter and took the cup from Sephiroth's hands with a wide smile. "Thank you so much." Genesis took a sip and for some reason it tasted a lot less like bitter, thick mud than usual. "It's perfect." Sephiroth returned the smile, looking quite relieved. Their exchange was broken by the untimely ring of Zack's mobile.
"Hello?" Zack laughed, tapping his index finger against the phone habitually. "Uh-huh. Yeah. I think so. Can do. See you there." He flipped the device shut and stuffed it back into his pocket. He leapt off of the couch and made for the door like a prisoner on the escape. "I gotta run, Seph. You can start the interview without me right? The recorder and the questions are on the table. Great, see you, thanks, bye!" And with that, he was gone.
Sephiroth blinked, shaking his head as he stared at the door. He turned back toward the redhead, the smiling creeping back onto his face. "Sorry about him. Shall we get started?"
"Sure." Genesis took a deep breath, hands clasped tight around the warm mug in his hands as he and Sephiroth took opposite sides of the couch. The silver-haired man pressed a button on the handheld audio recorder sitting on the coffee table, illuminating a small red light on the end. Genesis had difficulty not staring at it.
"Zack wrote these questions up last night," Sephiroth explained, taking the mountainous stack of index cards into his hands. "I hope we're not imposing."
"It's no big deal. I'm happy to help." He tried to meet Sephiroth's gaze, but those beautiful emerald orbs proved too much for him to handle. His eyes were drawn back to little red light.
"Thanks." Sephiroth straightened, crossing his left leg over his right as he read the first question: "As a whole, have you found the concept of homosexuality portrayed positively or negatively by modern literature?"
Question after question the awkwardness between them melted away. Genesis offered as thorough answers as he could, congratulating himself when he managed to cite an author off the top of his head. Sephiroth made for an engaging questioner, playing off of his answers and raising Genesis' confidence when he ran out of challenges with an impressed smile.
"So you think that separatist lesbians are more harmful to their cause than helpful?"
"By disassociating themselves from men and other women who don't share their perspective, they only further isolate themselves. The ambition should essentially be the elimination of lesbianism (and homosexuality in general) as a political issue- that is, to integrate homosexuals into society so that sexuality makes as much difference to the populace as the color of your shoes. Pushing for civil rights should take priority over mere differentiation. In her three latest novels, Ashton makes this point quite consistently."
"Essentially, isn't that asking people to swallow a central part of their identity?"
"Not at all. I'm gay and I'm fully conscious of how it contributes to my persona. But being 'queer' implies that my sexuality is the deciding factor in how I am personally identified by others. Sure, people like to stand out. I believe the fear of blending into the crowd may be the driving force behind gay separatist movements. But when two homosexual men or women can be portrayed in literature with the reader's perspective focusing on the dynamics of the relationship itself before the sexuality… I think that's a step in the right direction."
Sephiroth nodded thoughtfully, flipping the index card over into the disheveled stack that had formed in the middle of the couch between them. He winked at Genesis, holding up the final question. "Last one. I have to say you've been a great sport."
"Are you kidding? This has been fun." Genesis brushed his hair back behind his ear, seated cross-legged against the arm of the sofa with a playful smile.
Sephiroth held up the final card and began reading aloud, "Do you find-?" He paused, and his lips parted with surprise. Horror crossed his features, and he quickly clasped his hand around the card with a deep blush. "Um, never mind. We're finished."
"What is it?"
Sephiroth shook his head and turned away, mumbling something about 'stupid Zack' and 'stupid question'.
"C'mon, it can't be nearly as embarrassing as the one asking how I thought erotic literature advanced the integration of homosexuality in literary culture. Let me see it!" Genesis reached over, and Sephiroth quickly held it out of reach with wide, terrified eyes.
"No!" Sephiroth flushed deeper, piquing the other's curiosity.
"Don't be ridiculous." Genesis sat up and lunged for the index card, impeded by a firm hand on his chest as he struggled over the man's body to snag the piece of paper. The redhead rolled his eyes diverting Sephiroth's grasp with his own.
"Genesis, stop! Don't-!" The redhead snatched the index card, toppling over Sephiroth's body as a result. He quickly unfolded it, paying little attention to their compromising position.
The crinkled piece of paper read: Do you find Sephiroth attractive?
Genesis blinked, reading the card twice to make sure his eyeballs were properly attached. Suddenly, he became all too aware of his position, stretched over Sephiroth's reclined body. Their faces were inches apart, Genesis' right thigh nestled between Sephiroth's legs and their hips meshed together. He felt his face heating up as he stared into the other's horrified eyes. His beautiful, horrified eyes. "I… I apologize." Sephiroth's voice escaped in a whisper that brushed hot air against Genesis' throat. "That must be Zack's idea of a joke."
Genesis' thought process simply wasn't functioning. He could only feel; feel the sensation of Sephiroth's body pressed against his own, feel the flushing in his face that matched the other's blush, feel the way his heart pounded against his chest. Genesis glanced once more at the question, a smile pulling at his lips. "Interesting. Allow me to articulate my response in a manner that would best convey my feelings on the subject."
And Genesis took the initiative.
He kissed Sephiroth.
Genesis was so excited for his own accomplishment, he nearly forgot the implications of what he'd done. It took Sephiroth's lips kneading against his own and slender hands tangling in his hair for him to realize that his initiative had paid off. He made a mental note to thank Angeal later.
"Hang on, come into the backroom first." Angeal stood, kicking aside a few cardboard boxes before pretending to sort through one. "I think I have a book that might help," he called, as he faked his search for said book. His eyes flickered back to Zack's silver-haired companion with interest. So, Genesis' mystery Prince Charming had returned. He had to get the exclusive on this handsome stranger, and the socialite known as Zack Fair would have all of the information he needed. Zack dashed into the office and closed the door, promptly interrupting Angeal before he had a chance to speak: "Okay, you have got to tell me about that cutie you have working the register!"
Angeal blinked, settling back into his chair. "Genesis? My roommate?"
"No kidding?" Zack laughed aloud, crossing his arms and cocking his head to the side. "Angeal, if you only knew! Sephiroth came home two weeks ago, pining over some redhead who rang him up in the bookshop. Now I can see why. Is he gay? Is he single? Spill it, Angeal!"
Angeal smirked. "Fancies Genesis, does he?"
"Damn right he does! Apparently he has for a long time. Seph is always hanging around the shop after our evening classes finish, looking up research material. He pitched me this whole story about how this one employee was so great- with the prettiest smile, the most charming laugh, how kind and knowledgeable he was when he was dealing with customers. Blah, blah, blah. On and on! He was so flustered by your roomie, he didn't even have the courage to actually buy a book until that day. So I thought I'd drag him along today, see if I could get the scoop on this guy from you."
"Well," Angeal leaned forward, lowering his voice with a wink. "Let's just say my very gay, very single roommate has taken an extraordinary liking to your project partner."
Zack shared his devilish smile. "You're serious? Oh, man. This is too rich."
"Well, I suppose you'd best keep Genesis busy." Angeal shrugged, leaning back in his chair with a smile. "They've got to crack eventually."
Zack chuckled, pulling open the door as he called, "Thanks for your help, Angeal!" He cast a sly wink toward the man. "I have a feeling we're going to rock this little project!"
(A/N: Sephiroth. Studying Psychology. It's ironic. You know. Because he's insane. Ha.)