Ostensibly, he was trying to broaden his friend's horizons. Educate him on things that – maybe – he hadn't been exposed to in his little mountain village.

Heck, it wasn't like he'd arrived all-knowing from Gongaga, either.

People here in the city were much more frank about sex than they'd ever been back home. Not to mention that Gongaga hadn't had hookers or anything remotely like the Honey Bee Inn, and he'd bet gil that Nibelheim hadn't either.

Which was why he'd dragged Cloud to an adult store in Wall Market. Angeal had subjected his younger self to the same treatment, hoping to brush off some of the dust of naivete, and Zack figured it would work just as well for his best friend.

Even without the added harassment of Genesis making comments in the background.

But good intentions in the grand scheme didn't mean Zack couldn't enjoy the process, too. He was fairly certain he'd never managed that shade of red in his life, for example. And who knew full-grown men past the torture of puberty could get that squeaky?

The younger teen had been alright at the front of the store, where the shelves were stocked with nothing racier than furry cuffs and satin blindfolds, edible lingerie and pleather pants for role-playing bedroom games. Here among the toys, though, was a different story.

"What are those?" Cloud asked in a high-pitched whisper, staring at a ten-inch strand of materia beads in graduated sizes.

"Anal beads," Zack returned in a normal tone, just so he could watch Cloud panic and shush him. "Which explains where they go easily enough. What they do is help create a feeling of fullness for those who like it, and removing them at the right time and pace can intensify an orgasm."

Resisting the urge to ask Zack how he knew so much – was it personal experience? – Cloud frowned at the toy instead. "Why materia? Why not plastic or something?"

"They're quake materia."


Rather than answer, Zack just looked at him. And looked at him. And then raised an eyebrow... and finally Cloud got it.


And there was that glass-breaking crack that so amused him, coming from the normally calm Cloud.

"Oh yeah. It's the most popular thing, now." He gestured further down the display to various other green-tinted glassy objects. "You can get just about anything you want made out of materia – dildos, plugs, nipple clamps, Wutaian bells..."

"Wutaian bells?" Cloud asked, just to stop the litany.

"Little round balls that bounce together to create vibration. You insert them in your lady's–"

"Okay, okay, I get it!" Cloud interrupted, pale mountain skin flame bright with embarrassment. "You can stop now."

"You asked."

"Which was my second mistake. The first was letting you drag me in here."

"You sure? Because you've learned so much already!" Zack said brightly, struggling not to laugh as indignant blond brows lowered over eyes beginning to light with annoyance. "They don't all use quake materia, you know. Ice and Slow are popular, too. Or for those who like pain with their pleasure, there's fire and lightning – very mild, but I hear they still give an impressive sting."

"Zack. Stop talking."

"I'm just trying to help, Cloud," Zack replied, feigning hurt.

Rolling his eyes, Cloud turned his back and stalked toward the front of the store.

"We can't leave yet!" Zack called after him, "You still haven't seen their selection of lube! Or the floggers!"

"Not interested!"

A moment later the door slammed open then shut, and Zack collapsed laughing. Ifrit's fiery horns he'd pay for this later, but it had so been worth it. He'd gotten a fantastic laugh, and if Cloud could deal with him in full-on heckling mode, the jerks in the barracks hadn't a chance of Spiky losing his cool the next time they started in talking about their latest sexcapades.

Satisfied, he pumped his fist once to congratulate himself: mission accomplished!

With a last look at the shelves around him – he couldn't help wondering how Aerith would react to some of it – he jogged after his friend.