AN:Written for the prompting challengeness I've been undertaking (sporadically) with my two besties with breasties, junealondra and Le Requiem. The prompt will be put at the bottom of this story, to avoid giving anything away ^.^

Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy, Crisis Core, Zack, or Aerith. Or anything else you recognize. They all belong to Square Enix Seriously, please don't sue me. Sue-age (or sewage) is SO not what I'm looking for. I also don't own Star Wars, but props if you find the reference.

.xxx.

Zack Fair was, admittedly, not anywhere close to being an avid reader. He could read, of course, it just wasn't a frequent pastime. He found happiness by doing squats or running drills in the simulation room at HQ or, when he wanted some time to himself, wandering the world beneath the plate, admiring the people for their resilience and exquisite grittiness. Or, in Aerith's case, pure, untainted beauty. When he did read, he liked things with explosions and battles, rough-around-the-edges heroes and damsels in distress. He liked blood and gore and action. Still, that was only when he did read, which wasn't very often as he was, admittedly, not anywhere near an avid reader.

Aerith, on the other hand, adored reading. All too often, when she wasn't tending her flowers or escaping from the Turks, she could be found curled up in a sunny corner of the church, absolutely engrossed, an open book resting comfortably on her lap.

From the beginning of their relationship, Zack knew that she liked reading, but he didn't learn the true depth of that affection until about a month and a half in. He'd dozed off in a patch of sunlight, just asleep enough to feel fuzzy and content, but not so asleep that he was lost to what was going on around him. The Mako made it hard to fall asleep completely anyway, so Zack took what he could get, when he could get it.

Just as he felt the inklings of a dream creeping up on him, Zack heard the tiniest intake of breath, rain-soft. One eye lazily opened and trained on Aerith who sat, knees drawn to her chest, on the nearest pew. Tears dripped silently down her cheeks and Zack was beside her, fast as only a SOLDIER could be.

"What's wrong?"

Aerith smiled up at him, a little watery, always gorgeous. "Oh, just a sad part in my book. I always cry when I get to this chapter."

Zack peeked at the cover, watercolours artistically splashed across its front. He recognized it, had seen Aerith reading it plenty of times before. He'd never dared to ask what it was about, not sure his manliness was prepared for the estrogen-fueled world of female literature. "Isn't this one of your favourites?" He asked slowly.

"Yes! It's so well written and the story… it's just incredible."

"And… it makes you cry?"

"Well… that's part of the reason why I love it so much. I react to it. I care. I feel. That, to me, is what it's all about."

"Why in Gaia's name would you wanna read something that's gonna make you all… cry-ey?" He cocked his head, confused. By this point, Aerith's tears had dried and her sunny smile was back in place.

"Hm… I suppose it's just a girl thing, Zack Fair. Your tiny male brain just wouldn't understand." She giggled, poking him in the side as he huffed, indignant.

"Well, excuuuuse me, Princess. Let me see this." Zack snatched the book from Aerith's hands, one finger sliding out to mark her place. As he glanced at the words spilling across the page, he wasn't sure if he hadn't been right before… he felt girlier already just by reading the melodramatic love scene in his head.

Still, these words had made his girl cry, and that meant they had to be dealt with.

"So, this part really makes you cry every time, huh? I can take care of that." He flashed Aerith a grin, enthusiasm taking over and it really wasn't all that much of a stretch to call him a puppy.

Then, with the flair of a true fledgling hero, Zack proceeded to read aloud the words with as much gusto and relish as a trained over-actor, pitching his voice high for the female character, and gravelly and low for her holier-than-thou lover. Only when he was on his knees, bawling loudly into Aerith's skirt, did she finally collapse on the ground next to him, convulsing with laughter.

"S-Stop! Zack, you are c-completely ridiculous!"

He rolled to hover over her, elbows beside her cheeks. "Don't act like you don't love it."

She frowned at him, mock-serious. "I don't think I'll ever be able to take that part seriously again, no thanks to you!"

"Mission accomplished, then." He grinned, youthful and boyish, and stole a kiss because he loved to see her blush.

.xxx.

A week or so later, he somehow found himself leaning against a pew, one of Aerith's books in his hands, her expectant eyes on him.

"Uh…." He stuttered.

"I like it when you read to me. You've got a good voice for it," she smiled slyly at him, "just… maybe tone down the acting this time, okay?"

And, because whether it was wagons or words, he could never deny her anything, Zack began to read.

.xxx.

"Don't you have any books that you like?" Aerith asked him one day. His head was in her lap as she dragged her fingers softly through his hair.

Zack paused, a title almost forming on his tongue. He hesitated, not wanting to admit how under-read he was in comparison to the young woman above him.

"Well… there was one, I guess…" He trailed off, unsure, but Aerith snapped it up with a small smile.

"Could you bring it sometime? I'd love to know what it's like!"

"Uhh… I'm not sure it's exactly your thing but—"

"Please?" Her eyes were green and so large and stunning in her face and Zack blinked.

"Alright."

With that, he went on a hunt for his particularly favourite book, perhaps the only thing he ever read that had some quality or prestige to it. However, as he read it to Aerith over the next few days, he could tell by the amused tilt to her mouth and the scrunch to her nose that it was not going to be making it onto her "Must Re-read" list anything soon.

As he was nearing the end, during a particularly violent bit, Aerith finally spoke her mind.

"Zack, really? This is just so—"

"Aerith, come on, this is the best part! The hero dies in this scene!"

Her mouth dropped into a tiny 'O,' before she cocked her head, curious. "And why in Gaia's name would that be the best part?"

Carefully, Zack set the book aside and turned to face Aerith fully. "Because it's when he finally, really becomes a hero! He sacrifices himself for the greater good, for humanity, for everything he believes in… it's… it's the only way that's worth dying in my opinion. The only way I'd ever wanna go, at least."

Slowly, Aerith took Zack's hands and leaned in close. "Well, let's leave the self-sacrificing and heroic death for a bit later, okay? Hero or no, I'm not looking to lose you anytime soon."

After a soft kiss to her lips, Zack grinned. "'Course! Not going anywhere, beautiful."

.xxx.

Four years later, Aerith digs two dusty books from under a floorboard in the church, and lets the tears fall.

.Fin.

Prompt: The hero dies in this scene

Endnotes: Usually when I get a prompt I have to throw out the first twelve ideas and then the thirteenth or fourteenth will be the one I actually go with. This one, however, was the very first idea that popped into my head. Any mention of heroes? Gotta write about Zack. Also, have I ever mentioned that Crisis Core completely ripped out my heart and soul and ate them for dinner before vomiting them back up all over the place? Because it did. Anyway, that aside, I would love any thoughts on this, good or bad, compliments or (polite) critiques, so please drop a review if you're feeling like it XD