DISCLAIMER: No... still don't own it!
"Huh," Zack said, scratching the back of his head with a gloved hand. "Guess Hojo really did go all out when it counted."
"How so?" Tseng looked at him curiously, checking his gun as they walked up the stairs.
He waved his free hand at the top of the huge door. "It's blank. Last time it said JENOVA - like some sort of shrine."
The Turk considered this and shrugged. "Maybe to him it was."
Kunsel shuddered. "Creepy."
"Most likely, sounds like him," Zack said, starting to open the doors. "You hear anything in your head say something and get out. Doesn't matter what's happening, just get out."
His comrades nodded and flanked him, coming in just a step behind. At the sight of the... creature... in the Mako chamber, even Tseng blanched. "Leviathan watch over us..."
"Goddess, Sephiroth thought that was his mom?" Kunsel stared, incredulous, then pulled out his PHS. And took a picture.
The dark haired Third nodded, stepping farther inside. "Okay, how are we gonna do this? Miss Bitch needs to go. The sooner the better."
Kunsel considered it carefully, tilting his head as he observed the setup. "Well, those tubes are... feeding... it. So, first we cut off the feeding tubes to weaken it." He refused to refer to the abomination as a 'her' - even if it looked female. It was a twisted version of one, and not worthy of humanization.
"There is likely a shutoff valve from a distance." Tseng murmured. "I doubt Hojo let his assistants get close."
"Right-o." With a wry smirk, he reached up and grabbed for the blade that materialized in his hand, glowing a vibrant green- just in case. He moved up the pipe slowly, looking for any possible place a shut off could be.
Zack paused at the top of the pipe. "Ya know...she's in...a puddle. I could just zap her," he said thoughtfully.
Tseng and Kunsel exchanged glances, wary and yet... "He has a point."
"I suppose he would be the expert." Tseng noted.
He let the comment slide and pulled the materia out of his pocket. "So, can I fry her?"
"Be my guest." The Turk smiled faintly, nodding to the Mako Contained alien. "The sooner the better."
"You all look so morbid," a soft voice said from the top of the stairs.
"Cookies!" Cloud bounced up from where he and the red commander were sorting materia to cross over and relieve his mother of the tray, kissing her cheek. "Thanks, Ma!"
"You're welcome, darling," she said, going to take a seat on a clear space of the bed and picking up a pale blue orb. "Anything useful?"
"Mmph." Cloud had popped one of the oatmeal cookies in his mouth, groaning blissfully and passing out some with milk to his superiors with a nod to his mother. "Mmhm."
Sephiroth took one of the cookies hesitantly, looking down at it.
"Thank you," Genesis said, taking his own and popping one of the cookies in his mouth.
"Oatmeal." Angeal explained softly, recognizing the carefully analyzing look on his younger friend's face. Chewing one, he was hard pressed not to groan as well from the perfect blend of sugars, oat and dairy; oatmeal cookies were, quite possibly, the most perfect cookie, in his opinion. "They're delicious, Mrs. Strife."
"Maryanna, I am not that old yet, young man," she huffed dramatically.
The General nodded to his friend and slid the cookie into his mouth, biting back a smile. A cookie...
"My apologies." He chuckled. "Maryanna."
She a give a prim nod and went back to looking at the materia.
"I want to leave some of these with Ma." Cloud noted. "One of the better cures, a fire, maybe a blizzard and chocobo lure. Useful things for day-to-day." He leveled a stern look at his mother. "No arguing. A good bit of these I owe to you, anyway."
Maryanna scowled at her son and ruffled his hair. "I have some equipped in that bangle you sent me. Oh, I meant to ask you to set up the lure for me some time while you're here. Packles died a little after you left."
"Sure, I'll set you up. Maybe... maybe I'd even have time to catch you one, while we're out here?" He looked to the General hopefully.
The man nodded, taking another cookie from the small pile in Angeal's hand.
Cloud ducked his head with a smile, making a mental note to get the recipe from his mother before they left.
Zack frowned down at his wet top was laid out over the stair rail. His pants were sitting next to them and he was doing squats while Tseng stood inside of the small bathroom painstakingly picking the goopy green substance out of his long black hair.
Kunsel finally returned from scouring the manor, wearing a newly cleaned uniform. "Found a washer and dryer!"
Wordlessly, Tseng stripped out of his uniform, handing it over to the third and going back in. His voice drifted back out of the door. "Find a towel."
Zack grinned at his friend and then bounced after Tseng. He put his hands up so the Turk could see them and reached up to his hair. "Here let me help."
There was the distinct sound of a gun being taken off safety. "Fair. Personal space."
"Hey, hey, chill," he muttered. "Friends do this kinda shit so just accept it Mr. Turk."
With an unhappy grumble, Tseng let him in, an expression akin to a frustrated pout on his normally stoic face.
The Third grinned widely and began chattering about different things. "Your hair is really soft!"
Tseng slanted an odd look at him. "... thank you?"
"Tse-" Kunsel came to the bathroom, arched a brow and fell silent, taking in the sight of the two barely clad men, the Gongagan with his hands buried in the Wutain's hair, and felt something in his chest clench. Wordless, he waved the pairs' clothes and set them down, then turned and headed back to the main room.
Tseng raised a brow, surprised, and gently stepped away. "I apologize. I hadn't realized you two were involved."
Blue eyes widened and Zack blinked rapidly at the man. "W-w-what?"
The Turk's brow arched higher still as he reevaluated the situation, feeling badly for the white-haired Third, as Fair clearly was oblivious to his affections. How to put this delicately? "He clearly felt he was 'intruding' on a 'moment' - but, his reaction was more intense than just a casual observer. He felt something."
Zack sighed, rubbing at his hair with his hands. "Wow," he muttered. The third glanced up at Tseng who was still standing a respectable distance away, watching him with an arched eyebrow. "Damn, I'm an idiot."
He'd been babbling about Cloud like a love-struck idiot only to find out the one that was listening cared about him. "And a shitty friend. I should have known that," he said, turning to the door. "Have a good bath."
Not waiting for a reply, he jogged out of the room to go find Kunsel.
Kunsel was in the entry hall on the bottom floor, cleaning a strange looking dagger as he waited, several rather mauled Dorky Faces beginning to dissipate into the Lifestream at his feet.
~He likes Cloud. NOT Tseng. Right?~ Another Dorky Face approached and Kunsel spun to the side, twirling his dagger and unsheathing his second one, mind still whirling. ~He must have been helping him. Anyway, what does it matter?~
It mattered because it was someone other than him where he wanted to be. It had never bothered him before ~Before, you'd never let yourself realize Zack COULD be taken.~ No, he never had, had he? Never let himself contemplate it, so he'd never made a move, and now it was too. Damn. Late.
With a squeal, another Dorky Face fell, stabbed to death.
"Hey, you're gonna get messy," Zack said, coming to a stop a few feet from the Third.
~Inside should match the outside, right?~ He mused bitterly, but for Zack, he'd put on a smile. And he did, turning and smiling, glad he couldn't see his eyes. "Oh, hey... yeah. Melee gets like that sometimes."
The younger of the two sighed and shifted his weight around. "Yeah, I guess you have a point." Think, Zack, think! He had no idea what to say. All of his usual charm and childish bravado had disappeared in the face of his closest friend.
Kunsel smiled fondly, watching him, then sighed. No use letting his mind wander there. "I'll go check on your clothes so we can get back."
As Kunsel moved past him he reached out and caught his arm. "Wait."
The older Third froze at the touch, both wanting it, and wanting to pull away. Goddess, he had to stop these feelings. Now. "Hm?"
Zack felt the blush tint his cheeks as he looked at Kunsel. "You should take your helmet off more. You're beautiful."
"I should...?" ~Did I hear him right?~ "What?"
Zack's blush deepened even as he shrugged. I'm turning into Cloud with all this shy bullshit. "You're beautiful...show it off sometimes."
Kunsel laughed weakly, but didn't remove his helmet, afraid to let Zack see how desperate he was to believe this moment meant something. "I... thanks, Zack. That means a lot, from you."
Zack groaned in frustration. Why was this so hard? Shaking his head, he reached up slowly and lifted the helmet, giving Kunsel plenty of time to react and beat the hell out of him if he so desired.
Kunsel was wide-eyed, and they showed hurt and hope and a bit of wariness. "Zack?"
He smiled hesitantly as he pulled the metal barrier off the rest of the way and set it down on the floor. "Really, Kunsel, did you not know that?" He asked, brushing some of the snowy hair away from Kunsel's face.
"I'm not sure what to think right now." He murmured, just slightly leaning into the touch, without really realizing it, craving even this little contact.
"Probably that I'm such an idiot."
"I don't..." White brows furrowed in confusion. What was Zack saying? Where was this coming from?
Zack licked his lips, taking a slow breath. "Can I?"
"Can you what?" ~He can't mean...~
"Damn it, Kunsel," Zack said grabbing his face with both hands. "I've always liked you- years. That was never something that I thought would work. You were-were so...Kunsel, I'm going to kiss you. Punch me if you don't feel the same." That said, Zack closed the distance between them to brush his lips gently over Kunsel's.
For a moment, Kunsel was stiff, startled, and unable to process what was happening. Then, perhaps because he hadn't reacted positively, Zack began to pull back, and his mind panicked, latching on through his body to what he'd wanted for so long, deepening the kiss as gloved hands moved to grip bare shoulders, holding him in place.
With his arms firmly wrapped around Kunsel's waist, fisting in the material of his freshly washed shirt, Zack slowly pulled back and looked at his friend's flushed face. A silly grin twitched around the corners of his lips and he let it take over. "Wow," he breathed.
"Yeah..." Kunsel licked his lips, looking at Zack in awed wonder. "What brought that on?"
"...it's been a long time coming?" Zack shrugged slightly. "I never thought you felt that way."
The white haired teen blushed faintly. "Well, you never seemed to lean that way... so I let it go. And then..." He frowned, biting his lip as something occured to him.
"And?" He prompted gently.
"Cloud?" He asked softly, concerned.
Some of the light flickered out of Zack's eyes at the mention of the blond. "Spike's a different person- a good one, but he's not the guy I knew. Maybe he could be, but there's more than one side to my heart. A pari of pretty teal eyes and snowy white hair have always been on- though, I had no idea what you looked like." Zack shook his head smiling sadly. "You know, I always wondered. Even in the Lifestream I couldn't bring myself to spy on you just to see what was under that mask."
"Seriously?" Kunsel toyed with his helmet, grinning sheepishly. "You thought about it, though? About me?"
"Aerith had to hold me back and I don't know how many lectures about 'spying isn't honorable, puppy' I got," he said, laughing softly.
Kunsel snorted, amused. "Sounds like Flowergirl."
"You know her? Figures, you really do know everyone."
He shrugged. "I told you, I'm under the plate - a lot." He huffed, muttering. "Don't know how well that'll go over with Genesis... hopefully his business sense will understand."
Zack chuckled and kissed Kunsel quickly before stepping back. "We should give Tseng his pants back and then we can worry about Gen-Gen."
He smirked, ruffling the younger teen's spikes with a grin. "Yeah. Probably. I'll go get it. Don't need you trekking around in your cactaur boxers."
The Turk, who's suit was never anything but dry-cleaned, narrowed his eyes at the wrinkles but sighed, shrugging. He supposed that it was good enough that it was clean. Changing quickly, he commented. "I trust there will be no further hormonal rages on unfortunate monsters due to misunderstandings?"
Kunsel just leveled him with an intent stare, raising a brow. "Would you prefer I go after things of the two-legged variety?"
Because, of course, they both knew who his ideal type target would be.
Zack snorted, yanking on his pants. "Okay, okay, lets go. I'm hungry."
"Cheer, you people, for we. Were. VICTORIOUS!"
The door slammed open and Zack- once again- bounded through with a grin.
At some point, the group they'd left had migrated to the ground level and were sitting around the fire, Cloud was blushing bright red and Genesis and Angeal hunched over a huge photo album in Maryanna's lap.
"We are," Zack said with a grin, coming to stand next to them and peer over. "What are we lookin'- Cloudy you're so cute!"
"Oh Gaia, Ma! Not that one!" Cloud hunched over the large book, attempting to hide the picture of himself at the tender age of three wandering around in a wolf pelt with it's head on top of his, baring his little teeth at the camera.
"Hush, Baby, you were darling at that age. You still are," Maryanna said with a nod.
Genesis was busy giggling like mad into a-surprisingly- ungloved hand while Zack leaned over the couch, gasping for breath and trying to formulate words in with it.
"There was no trouble?" Angeal looked at Tseng, unable to not notice the wrinkles in his suit, and damp hair.
"Minimal." The Turk shrugged. "Was there any backlash here?"
"We are fine." Angeal rose, frowning, and looked at Zack. "What happened up there?"
Zack, still laughing, choked out something about 'water', 'Tseng', 'pushed' and 'Kunsel dared me to'.
"I see." He didn't. Not really. But, he had a feeling he wasn't going to get anything better out of them.
After eating - because Zack refused to do anything without having dinner first - the group left Niblehiem to find a mountain chocobo for Maryanna.
While Cloud equipped the bracer and headed off a ways, though easily within a few seconds of the SOLDIER Firsts' enhanced speed, Kunsel looked to Zack. "I don't particularly see a need to be gone any longer. The reactor and the manor are taken care of and we have Vincent with us."
"He can stay with me." Tseng spoke up. "My quarters are not as spacious as the six of yours, but I do not share them with anyone, and they are private. Only Veld and the Vice President have access, and I believe both can be persuaded to keep this quiet in the event that Mr. Valentine were discovered."
Vincent, who had walked up to the group at some point, sighed quietly but nodded in agreement. "Chaos is accepting and will honor the rules of your home," he said quietly.
"Good," chirped the dark haired teen.
"I'll handle the phone." Kunsel noted. "I need to get everyone new ones, anyway. And show you how to work the sub connections."
"Right-o," Zack said with a soft smile at Kunsel.
"MotherofallthatisHoly!" Cloud whispered loudly, catching their attention abruptly. "It's-eating-my-HAIR!"
"..." The group turned to stare at Cloud, a large blue chocobo picking at his hair. A snort came from Zack and he reached out, tugging on Kunsel's hand. "Tell me you have a camera."
Kunsel all ready had his PHS out, taking a picture. "Chocobo Lure: 2000 gil. Greens: 100 gil. Cloud being mistaken for a chocobo? Priceless."
A round of stifled laughs and chuckles came from almost all of the men, even Vincent cracked a smile. "We have to give some to Cloud's momma!" Zack chirped, doing a little wiggle.
Sephiroth just shook his head. He was unsure if it was in exasperation over Angeal's new student's seemingly endless amount of energy or over his own student's current predicament. With a sigh, he bit back the insane urge to laugh along with them all- only allowing a little smile and an arched brow at Cloud.
Cloud was making the best of his predicament, petting the chocobo and cooing to it until it quit grooming him and let him return the favor.
After a bit, while they watched, he pulled some greens from his pocket and fed it, grinning at its trill of delight.
Of course, then it had to go and sit on him.
By the time Cloud could let out a squeak, Zack was hanging off of Kunsel, tears sliding down his face as he laughed and clutched the older teen. Genesis was in much the same situation, clinging to the straps crossing the General's chest and babbling nonsensical drivel about Christmas cards.
Sephiroth's eyes widened and he gave Angeal a panicked look.
Angeal chuckled, smiling apologetically, and striding over to where the large bird was sitting, squashing the poor Third and alternately plucking greens from his pocket and ruffling his hair. "Hey there, beautiful... you're a good bird, aren't you? Think you've gotten the wrong chicobo, though..." He approached cautiously, smiling and talking softly and soothingly until he was where he could pet the hen's neck and back, ruffling her feathers in a way that clearly pleased her. "Yessss... good bird, you like that? Come here, then... that's it... good girl."
Kunsel snorted, shh'ing them both as he pressed a few buttons on his PHS to activate it's hidden-recorder mode.
Zack nodded, trying to quiet down, resting his head in the crook of Kunsel's neck. "Okay. Thanks," he said, still giggling a bit.
Angeal finally got the chocobo off of Cloud, who rose a bit unsteadily, brushing dirt and down off of his uniform with a sigh. "Thanks, Commander."
"It's just Angeal, we're not in a formal setting." He waved the title away with a smile, casting an irked glare at Zack and Genesis, who were still snickering.
Genesis clamped a hand over his mouth, standing up and brushing off Sephiroth's chest with his free hand. The man just stared down at him and frowned.
"Entertaining as that was -"
"- and that was entertaining." Kunsel interrupted.
"..." Tseng slit his eyes at him, arching a brow, but smiled when the white haired teen was unaffected. "As I was saying, now that we have a chocobo... are we heading to Midgar as soon as it's returned to Ms. Strife?"
"It would be advisable if we have no more business away from the company," Sephiroth stated, stepping forward, still frowning at Genesis. There was something...he didn't understand. He brushed those thoughts aside, however, and turned and expectant look to Kunsel and Zack.
"Of course," Genesis piped up. "And the recipe for those cookies."
The red commander gave Zack a cheeky grin. "Cookies."
"Don't worry, I'll make you some." Cloud reassured him, chuckling at his woeful pout. "After we get back."
After the conversation earlier, Zack resisted the urge to attach himself to Cloud, instead settling for a more subdued cheer and sticking next to Kunsel.
Teal eyes tracked the change in expressions critically, and Kunsel found himself growing quiet as well. Say what he might, Zack still loved Cloud - whether Cloud loved him or not - even if he had feelings for Kunsel.
That... was potentially a problem... at least in the sense of Zack being unhappy. He wanted Zack to be happy. He loved him. ~Goddess, this is complicated.~
They returned to Midgar with no problems by nightfall, settling Vincent in with Tseng and then settling in themselves.
Kunsel was getting ready to go out to clear his head, when he caught sight of Genesis sitting in the living room, lounging and reading Loveless. A sudden need to have the older man's perspective struck him, and he cleared his throat softly to get his attention.
At the sound, Genesis glanced up with a scowl. Seeing Kunsel standing a little ways off looking uncertain made him raise a questioning brow and pat the seat next to him. "...yes?"
The teen approached hesitantly, perching on the indicated seat with a frown. "Do you have a moment? I could use some advice."
"Of course," he said, setting down the book, then gesturing for him to start.
~Where to begin...~ "There's someone I've loved. For a long time. Who loves someone else. And I kinda gave up on them... only, they seemed to have some sort of epiphany recently. That they love me back." He sighed, frowning. "Which is great, don't get me wrong... but I can tell they still long for the other person too."
The commander blinked slowly. That was...not what he had expected. "Ah...well I have a little experience in matters of that sort- in a way at least. Are they a dishonest person?"
He chuckled at the thought. Zack? Dishonest? "I can't imagine calling him 'dishonest'. Secretive, sometimes... but it's understandable."
He had to stop and consider that. What did he think of Cloud? "He reminds me of a rosebud. Pretty. Delicate. Innocent in some ways, as much as someone around here can be, and not yet at his potential. But, he has 'thorns' - a definite spine when it counts. I don't really know him, but the things I've heard tell me he's more than he appears. Strong of will and body. Able to flourish in the face of adversity." He shrugged, summarizing. "Strong character. Good person. If I had to lose him to someone, I didn't feel so bad about losing to him."
"Could you like him?"
"I don't dislike him... but that's not what you meant, is it?" Kunsel mused, thoughtful. Could he?
Genesis chuckled, shaking his head. "No. That is not what I meant. Perhaps your mystery man could have his pie and eat it as well- the same for you. If you love him and he loves you, yet sees something in this other mystery man, then perhaps he's onto something. If he loves you then I'm sure he has good taste and judgment."
He blushed a little, smiling. "I think I could... share. If it would make him happy, it would be worth it. Besides, the other guy's not exactly hard on the eyes..."
"Okay. Who is it?" Genesis asked, his gentle look melting into his usual smirk.
Kunsel chuckled, honestly surprised his mentor had taken this long to ask. "Since you're bound to find out anyway... Zack. Who likes Cloud."
A hand clamped over Genesis' mouth as his eyes lit up with humor. A giggle slipped out and then another, until soon he was leaning on Kunsel's should and out of breath.
The teen scowled, not appreciating having his crush laughed at, and poked the Red Commander hard in the side. "Hey now! No laughing at my feelings. He's a good man, if a bit of a dork."
"I know, I know," Genesis said, leaning up and wiping at his eyes. "It is just...ironic, that my student would fall for- ah, nevermind. Just make sure he's still the young man that you love," He said, going serious. "I hear time travel can change a person. He has experiences that you cannot even fathom. Do you understand? Yes, this is Zackary, but in his mind he's still a First Class that fought alongside the General, that watched a corrupt company ruin the Planet as he puts it."
"He's still Zack, at his core." Kunsel was sure of it. "Still the same ideal driven, heroic man I've always loved. Yes, he's scarred, but not beyond recognition. He's still Zack."
"Good." On impulse, Genesis reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "Feeling better?"
"I really ought to talk to him... in person." He glanced at the clock. "Is it too late to go over to Angeal's?"
Genesis frowned at the clock then shrugged. "How about I send him over and occupy Angeal's time?"
"Sounds good." He nodded, smiling gratefully. "Thanks, Genesis."
He hummed in reply and tugged on his gloves. "Don't get used to it. Today is just...one of those days," Genesis muttered, exiting the apartment with a wave.
Two steps later, he was pulling out another keycard and sliding it, then pushing open the door to Angeal's apartment. "Ange? Where are you?"
"Kitchen, Gen." Angeal called out, coming out to greet the older man with a smile. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"I can't just come over anymore? Angeal, you wound me." With a smile, Genesis slipped off his coat and draped it over a chair when he stepped into the kitchen. "Zackary. Please go talk to your friend. I sense there is something bothering him- however, I have no wish to scare my new student to death before I've had the chance to play with him."
Zack blinked at him from over a glass of milk, eyes going wide. He set the cup down and leapt up, "I'll be back okay, 'Geal?"
"I understand. Take your time settling things." Angeal nodded, smiling encouragingly.
Zack shuffled out of the apartment, barefoot and shirtless, to stumble across the hall and knock on the door. "Kunsel?"
Kunsel came to the door, opening it and beckoning him inside, taking off his helmet once they were out of sight of the hall cameras. "Hey. Sorry... did I drag you out of bed?"
"Nah, Angeal was baking cookies to relax and we were talking. Are you okay? Gen said there was something bothering you..."
"I... well, kind of." He raked a hand back through his hair, smiling shyly. "Look, I want you to hear me out before you say anything, ok?"
"Alright," Zack agreed, flopping down onto the couch. "Go for it."
"I don't doubt how you feel about me." He reassured him with a warm smile. "But, I can't help but notice you're still holding a torch for Cloud. He makes you happy, and... I want you to be happy. So... I was thinking I could learn to share, if that's what you would like."
"What?" Zack blurted without thinking. "Wait, I mean...share? Like...what?"
"Gaia, you're cute." Kunsel chuckled. "Share you. I don't love Cloud. Not like you do. But, I admire him, and I like him. Enough to include him in this."
The dark haired Third nodded slowly. "Could you...ya know...love him? Maybe?"
He smiled softly. "Give it time. I can try."
"Don't try. It's natural," Zack said, grinning. It was hard to not love Cloud. "Hey, Kunsel?"
"Can I kiss you again?"
Teal eyes sparkled with pleasure at the request. "Please do."
"Today, we're discussing medium range and close combat. In this case, the combatants are all ready within striking distance, and the only weapon you have on hand is yourself; your possible weapons include: short punches, and strikes with elbows, knees and hands. Headbutts and kicks are also acceptable." He lectured. "Be aggressive, but do not be foolhardy. Concentrate your attacks on your opponent's vital points to end the fight as soon as possible."
The group nodded and Zack's fingers twitched. He'd never been good at listening to lectures- and Angeal could lecture like no ones business.
Angeal nodded, seeming satisfied, and zeroed in on his student, standing in the middle and looking patiently anxious... an odd contradiction he'd have to ponder later. For now, he would use the excess energy the youth had built up to their advantage. "Zack. You're with me. Kunsel, Cloud, I want you to observe closely. He's going to grapple with me, and I'll show you some techniques. Others will have to be practiced on dummies, as we get into more lethal attacks."
~Oh thank the Goddess.~ "Right!" Zack chirped, moving out to stand a few paces from Angeal. He rolled his shoulders, relaxing them and shifted his weight around for a comfortable stance. Damn, he hadn't realized how much he'd missed this.
Kunsel watched Angeal move into position opposite Zack, and give the command to 'come at me!' - which Zack did, with a wide grin. He himself had some hand-to-hand experience, mostly slum fights when he didn't want to pull his gun or cast materia, let alone draw his rather memorable blade, but had no illusions about being good enough to take on Angeal Hewley. It would be interesting to see if all Zack's time in the future paid off with new skills.
"The body consists of three regions for you to attack: upper, middle and lower." Angeal noted, dodging an underpowered leap from Zack. "- more energy, Zack. Your legs aren't long enough to cross the distance without it."
Zack nodded, spinning on his heel and aiming a kick to Angeal's back.
Grin turned to grimace when his boot was caught and held, the lecture continuing. "When aiming for a large part of the body, such as the back, stomach, head, or chest, you want to use a more pinpoint attack. They're larger and absorb blows from fists and feet, easier than say, if you were to deliver a knuckle punch or a chop. Conversely, when you aim for a small area - nose, groin, eyes, etc, it's better to use a larger 'weapon' - such as your hand or foot."
Zack nodded, stepping back once Angeal released him. Small attacks to large areas, large attacks to small areas... easy enough to remember.
The pair circled each other slowly, vibrant Mako eyes locked on to their opponent, a sense of anticipation rising in the air. Someone would have to move, and soon. Someone would have to break form and let the dance truly begin.
No one expected that someone to be Angeal.
The SOLDIER First darted forward, and though by no means at his fastest, it still caught Zack off guard to find him suddenly in his face, an arm raised for a chop at his neck.
In that moment, time seemed to slow down. Instinct that had been beaten into him by years of training screamed at him and he ducked back, a hand coming up to catch his wrist. He twisted slightly, anchoring himself, and grunted as he used his enemy's momentum against him, launching him into the air and -
"Shiiii-" There was a sudden, hard impact cutting him off a moment, and then Angeal indulged in a single, groggy groan.
"Shiva's Tits!" Zack screeched, running over to Angeal with a muttered string of curses and apologies mashed together. "Oh shit. Oh, shit, Angeal? Angeal are you okay? Goddess I didn't mean to! Are you okay?"
He was fluttering around Angeal reaching out to touch him and then jerking his hands away at the last minute. "Angeal!"
Kunsel muttered for Cloud to help Angeal, striding over to Zack and putting a hand on either shoulder, shaking him. "Zack? Zack! Calm down. He's ok."
"Kunsel! I-I-I threw him into a wall!" The Third, grabbed Kunsel's face and yanked him close, eyes wide. "A wall, Kunsel. A fuckin' wall!"
"Yes, and now there's an Angeal-shaped mark in it." Said SOLDIER mused wryly, rubbing his forehead and assuring Cloud again that yes, he was fine, and no, nothing was broken. "We can cut it out and I'll have my own doorway."
Kunsel stared at the - normally - stoic First in disbelief. "You have been around Genesis far too much."
"Oh, Planet, I broke him!" Zack squeaked, pulling Kunsel's face closer. "Fix him, fix him."
Kunsel considered kissing him, just to shut off the constant stream of babble, but the option was quickly taken away by a sudden gloved hand taking Zack by the shirt and tugging him in the other direction. "Zack! Enough."
"An Angeal sized de-"
It was hard to tell who was more surprised about Cloud slapping Zack. Zack, or Cloud himself. "I'm so sorry! You were all panicked and you needed to snap out of it and I could only think of one way, but maybe I shouldn't have, and I'm soooo sorry, please don't be mad!"
Zack blinked rapidly down at Cloud. "Whoa...that was good Spike..." he scrunched up his face and shook his head then grabbed Cloud and yanked him into a bonecrushing hug. "Thanks, chocobo. Sorry for freaking out like that. I-I dunno what happened...dent..."
"Uhm... you're welcome?" Cloud squeaked, blushing.
The door to the training room slid open and Genesis stepped in, freezing when his eyes took in the rather large dent in the wall. "Angeal...why in there an impression of your face in that piece of metal?" He asked, giving the group a very confused look. "And Zackary, why are you trying to strangle, Cloud?"
Angeal cast a wry look at Genesis. "You missed my first flying lesson, Gen."
"I see no wings, Angeal."
"Zack threw him." Kunsel informed him helpfully.
"I didn't mean to!"
Genesis just gave them an incredulous look and wandered over to Angeal, extending a hand to his friend. "Do I need to kiss it better?"
Angeal smirked, accepting the hand and rising. "Maybe after you assist me with this lesson."
He tugged Angeal up and pouted at him. "I just came to ask what you wanted for lunch."
"I'd cook for everyone if you let me get a video of Zack throwing you again." Kunsel offered, only half teasing.
A hand clipped him on the shoulder and Zack gave a startled squawk. "No way! It was an accident."
"I know! Just think how much farther you could throw him on purpose!"
Angeal groaned. "No. Just... no."
"There will be no more throwing," Genesis snapped, waving Cloud over.
Cloud came, chuckling at Kunsel's pout. "You said there was more to the lesson, Angeal-sir?"
"I'm sure there is," Genesis said before the dark haired First could reply. "But I was told to inform you that his Highness would like to see you immediately after this...whatever this is."
Cloud frowned, blond brows furrowing. "Is something the matter?"
"If there were I'm sure he would have come to tell you himself. No, I believe it has to do with your furry friend."
Cloud frowned deeper, wondering what the General could want of him dealing with Fira, if nothing was wrong...
"We'll hurry, Cloud." Angeal assured him. "Try to pay attention, though."
Cloud approached his mentor's office door with a growing sense of unease and concern, knocking briskly. "General, sir?"
Cloud opened the door, coming in and offering a tentative smile and salute.
The General nodded to him and set down the pen he'd been using. "Would you please?" He gestured to his lap, arching a silver brow.
The third frowned, confused, and walked around the desk, peering in his superior's lap. Instantly, he had to bite his lip to keep from cooing. "Fira! What are you doing?"
The kitten didn't move and Sephiroth sighed. "She refuses to let go," he said simply. "Reno wouldn't stop making these horrible watery eyes at me in the elevator this morning. He even followed me to the office."
"Oh my..." Cloud giggled softly. "Let me go get something to lure him off... has she eaten yet?"
"Yes." Sephiroth scowled down at the furry lump. "My breakfast."
"Well, sir, if she's all ready eaten, I don't think she'll want to leave. She looks pretty comfy."
The man sighed and sat back in his chair. "Of course."
Sephiroth had expected as much. The cat was far too...cat like for his tastes. Still, it seemed to make his student happy and Lazard had expressed the need to keep the student happy. Hopefully this would make up for his lack of social skills in any other setting.
"I'm sorry sir. Should I at least go get a litter pan to put in the corner for her? She will have to get up eventually..."
Wrinkling his nose, he looked up at Cloud. "I suppose that would be a good idea."
Saluting with a chuckle, Cloud nodded. "All right. I'll be back shortly.
Sephiroth nodded and waved a hand absently. Much to his displeasure, the other was scratching the feline behind its ears. This was Strife's pet...not his.
He returned after a bit with a pan of litter and a dish of water. "Here you go. Where do you want them?"
"In the corner."
Cloud set the pan and dish down, arranging them so no litter would land in the dish, then returned, checking the door was closed before reaching down and lightly skimming his fingers over Fira's fur.
"How was your lesson with Angeal?" He asked, attempting to make idle conversation.
The Third snickered, amused. "Zack threw Angeal."
A thin eyebrow rose at that. "...interesting."
He nodded, chuckling. "It was a mistake. I think he triggered some sort of instinct or something..."
"Ah," he said, nodding.
"It kinda worries me." Cloud admitted. "What if that had been an ordinary person? Or even another SOLDIER Third? He could really have hurt somebody!"
"Treatment for PTSD would perhaps be an idea..." He mused. Fair had shown all of the signs, and after everything he'd heard he'd be rather surprised if he wasn't a little disturbed- especially being in Shin-Ra.
"Is there someone we can trust for that?"
"You have a point."
Cloud nodded, frowning. He wanted to help Zack, but he didn't know how...
"The only psychiatrist currently employed by Shin-Ra is a colleague of Hojo's. However, during the start of the war there were rumors that the Wutain practices of meditation helped their soldiers that were traumatized in battle."
The General nodded. "I do not see why he wouldn't."
"That's great!" The Third grinned, pleased.
Sephiroth couldn't help the tug at his lips and he dipped his head to hide a smile of his own. "Indeed."
Clouds watch chimed with the time and he blinked. "OH! I'd almost forgotten. Angeal's making lunch."
Nodding, Sephiroth shifted the kitten in his lap to his arms and stood. "Shall we?" He asked, motioning to the door.
He nodded, barely resisting a grin at the - dare he say cute - sight the General made with the kitten curled against him?
Sephiroth gave him a confused look and they two left the office, making their way to the elevator.
Sephiroth shifted uncomfortably in the small space. The kitten was warm against his arms and he silently urged the machine to go faster so he could remove his jacket. There was also the question of his companion. Angeal and Genesis had told him to talk to the Third- to get to know him. How the hell was he supposed to do that?
His thoughts drifted back to the conversations in Nibelheim.
He'd had a hard to believing that the petite blond had been the one to kill him- on multiple occasions. Especially if he'd failed the SEE. Once they'd returned, he'd checked over Cloud's scores. The teen was talented and he couldn't fathom why he'd failed the first time.
"Sir?" Cloud nudged the general gently. "It's our stop."
"My apologies," he said quietly, shaking himself out of his thoughts and stepping out.
Angeal was getting the breadsticks out of the oven when they arrived, and smiled, waving. "Come in, come in. Join the others. It'll be ready shortly."
Still lost in his own thoughts, Sephiroth just nodded and went to sit in a free chair.
Cloud went over to see if he could be helpful in the kitchen, but was quickly shooed out, making him laugh and seek Kunsel and Zack.
Stroking Fira absently Sephiroth pulled himself back to the present and glanced around at the group. His eyes immediately locked onto Genesis' smiling face and he bit back the urge to sigh. This...attraction...needed to go.
Genesis was his friend- one of his only friends- and that was all.
From the kitchen, Angeal noticed Sephiroth's glance at Genesis - and how quickly he looked away, uncomfortable - and wondered if that, perhaps boded well for their quest. He would have to tell Genesis later and muse over it with him. "Dinner!"
"Food!" With a grin, Zack bounded up, tugging Kunsel with him and over to the table.
A soft smile worked it's way over Genesis' features and Sephiroth sighed, glancing down to his furry charge. Fira blinked sleepily up at him and made a soft grumbling sound. "I see," he said quietly. "Quite confusing."
Angeal had made a hearty potato soup, with bread sticks and a salad, enough of it to feed all six SOLDIERs, and a little extra, should their Turk and ex-Turk stop by.
"I need a bigger table." The FIrst mused. "With how large our group is now."
Genesis chuckled and nodded in agreement. "Especially if Vincent and his guest show up."
A giggle came from near the kitchen sink and then a quick intake of breath. The group's attention zeroed in on the noise and the more experienced SOLDIERs were on their feet, swords drawn.
Vincent Valentine gave a two fingered salute and pushed a harried looking Tseng off the counter the ex-Turk was currently perched on. "Are we late? Sorry."
"Speak of the devil, and he doth appear." Kunsel noted dryly.
"You have no idea how very apt that description is." Tseng muttered, straightening his tie and flicking a nervous glance at the red and black figure beside him.
"I see the little Fox has teeth." Chaos said with a grin that was partially hidden behind the red collar.
With a huff, Genesis sat down, followed by Sephiroth who was still clutching the kitten to his chest.
Angeal gestured for the Thirds to sit as well, beckoning the two late additions over. "Come on, there's plenty for everyone."
Vincent remained seated on the counter, legs swinging from side to side and moving to a tune only he could hear. "Vinny would like to apologize for the...how did you say that? Ah, yes, 'unconventional' entrance."
Angeal snorted. "Ah. Chaos." What more needed to be said? "Nonetheless, you are welcome."
"Why thank you, Warrior of Light," Chaos said with a shrug, poking at one of the oven mitts sitting next to him
Tseng walked over, taking an offered seat and a glass of juice with a sigh.
It had been a long day.
And it was getting longer.
Genesis quirked an eyebrow at the strange name but decided it was best not to question Chaos.
Zack just grinned down at his food.
"Since we are all together, perhaps it is a good time to discuss our next move." Tseng suggested quietly.
"Well, it'd probably be better - and safer - if we tried reforming ShinRa first... as opposed to simply destroying it." Kunsel noted. "So, we'll need to think of who to contact, within the company and without, to remold it into something stable."
"Reeve," Zack said.
"He should be around right now...right?" He added a moment later.
"Tuesti? Yes. He's probably not as high ranked as you recall him, but just as intelligent nonetheless." Tseng nodded. "A good choice, for helping us switch from Mako to other energy sources. May I also suggest our young Vice President?"
"Rufus?" Zack frowned, setting down his spoon. Rufus Shinra... "There used to be a rumor that you guys raised him. That true?"
Tseng raised a brow, tempted to look at Kunsel, wondering if this was a common rumor or something the white-haired teen had shared from his 'finds' - but he resisted. They were, after all, allies now. "We've certainly done more to raise him than his parents ever did."
Genesis snorted, giving Tseng a teasing smile. "Just what we need, another Fox."
"I say we get both brothers in on it. Besides..." Kunsel smiled, swallowing a sip of juice. "SOLDIER follows the General. Army follows Lazard. Turks follow Rufus. Sounds like we've got our lethal forces all in a row."
"Right," Zack muttered. "We need to find out if Lazard is already backing Hollander...or if that was something that started later."
"I don't think Hollander has any real backing at all, from Lazard or anyone. He's just 'the other scientist' - the backup plan." Angeal noted. "He hates it."
A low baritone, almost a whisper, came from Chaos' direction as Vincent Valentine surfaced. "Where is Veld?"
"Resting in his room, and doing paperwork, if I know him at all." Tseng replied calmly, a bit relieved Valentine had regained his senses. "And likely wondering what's gotten into me lately."
Vincent nodded. "I would like to speak to him soon."
"What, exactly, are we going to say to these people?" Kunsel interrupted, not wanting to think about Veld. "'Hey, Zack's from the catastrophic future, and to prevent it, we're giving the world as you know it a makeover'? Somehow I don't think that'll fly."
"It may work on Reeve," Sephiroth commented. He'd met the man on multiple occasions. He always looked so far away.
"Altering it... slightly... may be all they need to know initially." Tseng mused. "Veld holds no significant love for ShinRa these days. But, you don't 'quit' the Turks." Dark eyes cut to his current roommate, and he allowed for a small smile. "Current company excluded."
The man allowed for a twitch of the lips before inclining his head. "With your word I'm assuming Rufus wouldn't be hard to sway and with all of his First Classes, neither would Lazard."
Tseng nodded. "I have no doubt they will listen to... reason."
"Who else?" Genesis asked. "What, us and three others aren't going to change the world."
"Some of the Firsts will agree as well," The General added, thinking of the few he kept close.
"Most of the lower classes will follow the three of you, no doubt." Kunsel evaluated. "Not all of them are Shinra bought."
"Reassuring." Angeal murmured. It was... nice... to know they had earned loyalty in the ranks.
"What about Aerith?" Zack asked, looking a little nervous. He was curious to know if she would know what's up or if she'd really have no idea...
"You've mentioned her before..." Kunsel recalled, the name also niggling at the back of his mind from his time in the slums. Not that he'd mention that yet.
"Aerith Gainsborough... adopted daughter of Elmyra Gainsborough... daughter of Professor Gast... is the last Ancient to walk the Planet." Tseng informed them softly, watching Zack to see if this was new knowledge.
"That's her." The dark haired Third decided to leave out the fact that Tseng was her keeper.
"What can she do?" Cloud asked, curious.
The smile that pulled over Zack's face was wistful in a way that was almost heartbreaking. "She grows flowers."
The group fell into a somewhat awkward silence that Zack didn't seem to notice at all as his face swept through a myriad of expression ranging from joy to sadness.
Finally, Tseng remarked. "We do not know the extent of her abilities. As a half Cetra, there is a chance they may, in fact, be limited to simply flourishing life in the least likely places."
"She stopped Meteor," Zack said off handedly. "She's got Holy."
"She stopped a meteor?" Cloud repeated, awed.
"The black materia," Vincent said, hopping off the counter and moving to grab Tseng's glass.
Tseng relinquished the glass the second he recognized the golden gleam of Chaos in the former Turk's eyes. "The black materia summons a meteor?"
"It does," Chaos said sounding a lot like Vincent. He took a sip of the drink and sighed, glancing around at the gathering of men.
:Really, Vincent, what have we gotten ourselves into?:
The ex-Turk chose not to reply and blinked slowly when Chaos released control and he found himself standing directly behind the Wutain and sipping his glass of water.
"It couldn't hurt to bring Aerith in on these matters." Tseng decided. "She would have a... unique view of things. Seeing things we may not."
"Who do we approach first?" Genesis questioned. "Reeve may be the safest bet."
"Tuesti for the lot of you, yes, but the sooner Veld and Rufus are brought on board... the sooner actual politics can be put into motion." Tseng observed.
Sephiroth frowned, shifting the kitten around when it whined softly. "Are the Director and Rufus going to be capable of working together?"
The Turk smiled bitterly. "No one has made the reason you allude to known to the Vice President yet."
"And how does Lazard feel about having a kid brother?" Genesis shook his head. "If he really is illegitimate I don't anticipate them being 'buddy-buddy'."
The white haired Third toyed with a breadstick as he thought, sighing. "No. You have to understand where Lazard's coming from. He's a rags-to-riches tale, who worked his way to rank. To him, life's not about the things you have, but the people in it. He treasures his family - surely you've noticed a sort of theme to his emails, he's very family-oriented. He resents his father's treatment of his mother, and regrets that Rufus is growing up an 'only child' when family is so close. I can't be positive, but I can be pretty sure that Lazard would give Rufus a chance."
After a moment of silence a nod came from the General, quickly followed by Genesis who was biting back a smile. His student really was something else- even if he did have one too many secrets.
Zack also nodded, quirking an eyebrow at Tseng. "You should tell him. You guys were really close. I guess you are now too."
"I suppose I will." Tseng agreed, adding, after a moment. "The President will not approve."
"The president is a fatass idiot and I know that you know that." Genesis huffed, shrugging one shoulder.
"That does not change that he is the current head of ShinRa." He replied calmly. "Something must be done."
"Right," Zack agreed. "But we can't do that now...he's still got that horse and Scarlet backing him. Yeah, they'd probably rip his throat out to be the head of Shin-Ra but we don't want them. Then there's Hojo- the Pres has so much money going down his program that he'd fight to keep the old man there. Kinda like chess. Gotta take out his pawns first..."
Dark eyes blinked, the only sign of the pleasant surprise the Wutain received, a small smile curving his lips. "I think I would like to play chess with you sometime, Fair."
The Third grinned at him, happy to be gaining a friend back.
"And how many Turks will be following you?" Vincent asked, muttering a quite order to shut up and shaking his head. "Can you gurantee they will listen to you if the President orders them to go against us?"
"Four of them are unquestionably loyal to me. The rest will follow Veld first. None of us follow the president before Veld." Tseng noted.
"Reno, Rude...Elena- is she even a Turk yet?- and...Cissnei?" Zack questioned. "I can't remeber when Elena got there..."
A dark brow arched, surprise passing over normally impassive features. "No, Elena is in training - I didn't count anyone in training. Only full Turks. Her older sister, Beretta, though... she is."
"Oh, damn, okay." Zack shrugged then grinned. "Can't wait to meet Reno again."
"He's eager to meet you, as well." Tseng noted dryly, squinting a little to prevent an eye twitch at the thought of the mayhem the bouncy SOLDIER could cause with the EMR wielding Turk.
"Really?" Genesis shared a worried look with the Turk at Zack's gleeful tone and cleared his throat.
~That... may work out to our advantage.~ Kunsel mused, smirking, mind whirring with calculations.
"Yes, what a lovely reunion. Now...we all have work to do so we need to move. You three-" he pointed at the Thirds. "-try not to break anything. Please."
With a sigh, Zack fell backward onto Genesis' plush couch. If nothing else, the man had amazing taste in furniture. "What do you guys want to do while we wait for them?"
"I say we just chill and chat. Get to know each other." Kunsel suggested, watching Cloud take one of the chairs as he completed the little triangle by leaning against the wall, settled on the carpet with his closed laptop.
"Ooookay. What should we do? Play twenty questions or something?" He joked.
"Twenty questions sounds... promising." Kunsel grinned. "What d'you say, gentlemen?"
"I guess?" Cloud shrugged. He had nothing to hide, really.
Zack blinked at his friend. "I was joking but yeah, okay, let's go."
"All right. Question one: Why did you join SOLDIER?" Kunsel asked, grinning.
"Mostly? To get out of Nibel." Cloud chuckled, a bit embarrassed. "I love Ma. The town? Not so much."
Zack laughed almost bitterly. "To be a hero. And not have to marry Leila what's-her-face."
"If we pull this off, you will be a hero." Cloud noted softly.
"And!" Kunsel chipped in, grinning. "Definitely not marrying Ms-what's-her-face."
"There's no way I'd marry her," he said scowling. "I never even liked her!"
"What about you, Cloud? Got any girls waiting for you back home?" Kunsel prodded gently.
"Huh? Oh, well... I mean... there was this one I kinda liked but... no. Not really." He shook his head, blushing a bright red.
Zack grimaced, flopping back to hide his face. Tifa. He remembered Cloud mentioning something about her. He'd never been able to understand how the blond had liked a girl that let her father beat the hell out of him.
And then her chasing after him after everything that happened... He shook his head and shoved those thoughts away. Calm down.
"So," Cloud was saying. "What about you, Kunsel?"
"What, why'd I join? Or do I have someone waiting for me?" He arched a pale brow.
"Both, I guess. It's not fair for you to ask all the questions and not answer any!" The younger teen pouted.
"I second that!"
Kunsel laughed, grinning. "Well, I joined ShinRa in hopes of finding a way to either change it, or stop it. And yes. I have someone special."
"Does she know you're this crazy?" Cloud wondered.
"He does, yes." The white haired Third took impish delight in the way Cloud's eyes widened. "Don't look so shocked. In a military that's men-only... it's bound to happen, yeah?"
Zack snorted, biting his lip and glancing over at Kunsel.
Kunsel waggled his brows naughtily, barely refraining from snickering.
Cloud missed this, lost in thought. "I guess... I guess I didn't think about it. I don't like, have a problem with it or anything... you just don't hear about it in little towns like Nibelhiem."
"Or Gongaga," Zack put in, shrugging.
"Probably not Banora, either, but I grew up in Midgar, so it doesn't really matter much." Kunsel smirked, and pushed a little farther. "So... no problem with it... could you ever see yourself in such a relationship?"
The dark haired teen paled and gave his partner in crime a panicked look. 'What are you doing?' he mouthed.
"Kunsel!" Cloud blushed, sputtering.
Kunsel winked as Cloud dramatically hid his face, groaning, and mouthed 'Trust me.' "C'mon, Cloud! It's not like I asked you to do anything."
With slightly widened eyes, Zack watched as Cloud turned seven shades of red behind his hands.
"You have, haven't you?" He smirked.
"I haven't done anything!" Cloud yelped.
"No, I mean... pictured yourself with another guy. You like both." Kunsel looked pleased.
Zack couldn't help but smile as he bit back a laugh. "It's not a crime, Cloudy."
Cloud pouted at them, and Kunsel abruptly realized he found it... cute.
"Ever been kissed?" Zack asked abruptly.
Cloud's blush was softer this time, wistful, as he shook his head. "No."
Zack didn't even bother hiding his smile this time. Cloud had never been kissed before either- something he'd been proud to help with.
"What about you two?" Cloud shot back, nudging Zack with his foot.
"Kissed? Yeah. Once or twice," he said, smiling.
~Damn fine at it, too.~ Kunsel smirked.
"Was it... you know..." Cloud ducked his head, blushing.
"Was it...what?" Zack asked, tilting his head to the side. It was fun to mess with Cloud...but he honestly didn't know what the guy was getting at.
"You know... as nice as everybody makes it out to be?"
A rather goofy grin spread across his features and Zack nodded. "Better even."
Cloud giggled at his grin, softening. Yeah, he could tell. It had been an amazing kiss that Zack was recalling.
Sighing, he rested his head on his knees, and hoped one day he'd get as lucky.
"You like anyone in particular?"
Cloud stiffened a little. "Uhm... kinda?"
"Who is it? He cute? I'm guessing it's a guy...it's not one of those secretaries is it? Cloud those ladies are crazy! They stalk you!" Zack shook his head violently and shuddered. He could remember that one...what was her name...eh, he didn't care. She knew everything about him though!
Cloud's eyes widened at his friend's rapid fire sentences and he yelped, ducking down behind a cushion. "Zaaaack! I'm not being stalked! Not by him. I don't think. He's pretty busy right now."
"Who?" Zack put on a charming grin, even though he was shaking inside, and scooted over to lean toward Cloud's chair. "Who is it? Do we know him? Better be a good guy, not that idiot Daniels."
"He is a good guy." The blond protested muffledly, much to Kunsel's amusement. "And no, not Daniels."
Zack gave Kunsel a pointed look that he hoped conveyed his demand that the SOLDIER use his Turk like powers to get some answers out of the blond teen.
"Is he SOLDIER or Army?" Somehow, Kunsel doubted it was a Turk or staff.
"Mmph." Cloud was thoroughly buried into the cushion. "'der."
"SOLDIER?" He deduced, smirking at Zack when the gold spikes bobbed.
Zack felt his face flush and he reached over to poke Cloud. "Come on, it's not that embarrassing is it? Is he ugly or something?"
Kunsel gestured for him to back up, scowling. He was going to get the teen bottled up!
"No..." Cloud peeked out, flushed. "He's... very handsome..."
Taking the hint, Zack sat back, stretching out over the couch and waiting for Kunsel to say something.
Kunsel observed the tense set of Cloud's shoulders. They could press... but it would be to their advantage to do so at another time. Chuckling, he ruffled the younger SOLDIER's hair and shook his head. "You're off the hook this time, Cloud."
Cloud grinned, perking up.
~Wait... THIS time?~