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Zack reports to Sephiroth after a mission to find a pleasant surprise waiting for him.
Cover art by freelanceSOLDIER at deviantART. Thank you!
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII. Square Enix does.
*Words or sentences in italics indicate thought.
Something went wrong. Terribly wrong. Rioting. Destruction of ShinRa property. Area damage control calculated. Warning shots fired. Sephiroth continued to flip through the pages of the preliminary mission report as he strode down the hallway towards his office. Retaliatory response from protesters. Risk assessment made. All appropriate action taken. Civilian casualties. Deaths. What had been a demonstration by disgruntled ShinRa employees had escalated into utter chaos. Sephiroth slammed the report folder shut.
He reached a set of double doors at the end of the hall and pulled a coded security card from a breast pocket hidden within his coat. In one continuous fluid movement, he swiped the card through the entry panel on the door and returned it immediately to its place of safekeeping. He punched in a second code, his fingers moving deftly over the keypad, and waited with his hand curled around the doorknob. Seconds later, the indicator light on the panel turned from red to green and an automated voice intoned that security parameters were disengaged. Sephiroth barely gave the nameplate on the door a glance as he entered the waiting room adjacent to his office.
Walking through a second set of double doors into his office proper, he deliberately neglected to turn on the lights. Aside from the fact that he did not require them to see, he needed the darkness right now. He craved it. The last few hours had been spent being paraded around by President ShinRa and Rufus meeting and greeting dignitaries, diplomats, CEOs, and every other rich man on the planet inflated with his own self-importance. When a courier approached him with the report now thrown upon his desk, he had been more than willing to leave the brilliance of the ballroom's crystal chandeliers.
He stood in silhouette, staring out at the steel and fluorescent landscape that was Midgar. Points of light dotted the plate like fallen stars giving the city below a celestial beauty. Coupled with the silence in his office and the night seemed almost tranquil. Illusion. He let his eyes drift down to the red folder lying askew on his desk. He brushed his fingertips across its surface as if it was the skin of a lover before opening it again and turning to the last page. The page with the signature of the officer-in-charge: Zackary Fair.
He sighed, closed the folder, and waited, unmoving, in front of his desk. Waited as the unmistakable clomp of combat boots grew closer to his office. Waited as he heard the outer door open and latch shut. Waited as the young man outside hesitated, his unsteady hand hovering over the doorknob, the other poised to knock. Sephiroth closed his eyes, the stillness carrying Zack's heartbeat to his ears like an echo. Open it. Open it, Zack. What felt like hours were mere seconds as, at last, he heard the rap of knuckles against the door.
The pressure in the room momentarily changed as the door was opened and closed, the soft shuffle of battle weary legs coming to a stop meters from their commander. The young colonel stiffened his posture and raised a hand in salute.
"Colonel Zackary Fair reporting, sir."
"At ease." Under normal circumstances, Zack would only be too willing, flopping himself down in one of the two leather-upholstered chairs set in front of the general's desk. Now he simply let his hand drop to his side. Taking several deep, measured breaths Zack desperately tried to shed the tension that currently held him in its fierce grip. The feeling was alien to him. It went against his nature, and he grew an instant dislike for it. Regardless of the situation, social, official, political, or otherwise, he has always been able to retain his boisterous, charming self. Tonight, however, it was nowhere to be found, the gravity of the day's events having stolen it away. Zack ran a hand through his disheveled hair and in the process released a cloud of dust and bits of debris onto the general's immaculate carpet. He sighed as he watched the tiny particles settle over the furniture and floor. Perfect.
Zack finally focused on Sephiroth and knew why he could not approach him in his usual, carefree manner; for the first time since their military careers collided, Zack has failed his commander. Sephiroth entrusted him with the simple task of maintaining the peace during a demonstration of reactor employees in addition to protecting ShinRa property, and for a few uneventful hours that was exactly what Zack and his regiment of SOLDIERS had done. Then all hell broke loose. By the time the SOLDIERS had eradicated the hostile force and re-established order, there were 4 civilians and 2 SOLDIERS dead. Zack has never lost a man in battle let alone something as unorganized and mindless as a riotuntil today. It was with little wonder that his spirit felt broken.
"Lose the formality, Zack. It doesn't suit you." The young colonel's mouth tipped into a smile as thin and fragile as a crescent moon then faded away. He has not addressed Sephiroth by his rank in well over a year, and yet this moment felt like it needed to be handled with the utmost respect and delicacy. Given Sephiroth's response, Zack was obviously wrong, though the casualness of his superior's reply did little to ease his tension.
"Seph, about today...I...I'm-" The general turned around slowly to gaze upon his second-in-command. He did not fail to notice Zack's attention temporarily diverted or the perplexed expression that passed over his face.
"You needn't apologize or explain. I have read the prelim. You and your men were placed in a volatile situation that should have been resolved months ago by the ShinRa administration. As far as I'm concerned, the confrontation and subsequent outcome was unavoidable. My report to the President will say as much. Case closed." He expected some sort of outburst from the young man: a celebratory exclamation, an uncoordinated dance display, even a sigh's subtle whisper, something "Zack-like", but instead received a single question that strayed completely off topic.
"Why are the lights off?"
"I did not want them on."
"May I ask why?"
"I have spent the last three hours under the glare and hum of artificial lighting, flaunted and fawned over for the benefit of the President's foreign relations. In the ballroom I had no choice on the matter. Here I do."
"Makes sense. Would you mind if I turned just one lamp on? Not that it isn't absolutely exhilarating being in a darkened room with you." Sephiroth smirked, pleased to see a glimpse of the real Zack break through the sober being that entered his office.
"One." Placed upon a round, cherry end table centered between the leather chairs was a tall mission lamp with a leaded glass shade. It was more decorative than functional; a gift from a politician after Sephiroth destroyed a mutation that threatened the man's village. The light cast was limited in range as well as muted by the thick glass, thus creating a soft, intimate ambience. Zack turned and pulled the chain, the halogen bulb burning low before gradually growing brighter. When he turned back to face his commander, he was unprepared for the vision that stood before him. His eyes widened as he shamelessly gaped at Sephiroth from head to toe.
"Seph...what are you wearing?"
"My full dress uniform. I am required to wear it at formal occasions." Zack took a few steps closer to the general, his eyes still poring over his appearance. He was wearing a black, single-breasted coat that fell to his knees with coordinating trousers and flawlessly polished shoes. The coat's close-fitting, hourglass shape with its tapered waist and vented back indicated the garment was tailored specifically for Sephiroth. Embroidery intricately sewn with silver thread trimmed the high-standing collar that fastened at the side; the placket, which concealed round, pewter buttons; and the cuffs, uniquely styled to resemble the gauntlets worn by medieval knights. The trousers were expertly pressed, distinct creases in perfect lines running the length of each leg, and completing the ensemble were the shoes: black with laces and not the slightest scratch or scuff to mar their lustrous finish.
Then there were the Orders. Zack recognized decorations for distinguished service, length of service, defense superior service, and exceptional service amongst the overlapping rows of medals and ribbons that adorned Sephiroth's chest; medals forged out of gold and silver suspended from his uniform by multi-colored ribbons. Thin metal bars clipped to each ribbon signified the campaign or operation the recipient received the award for, or to denote the number of years devoted to military service. A ribbon bearing more than one bar indicates the soldier was awarded the decoration multiple times. Zack noted with warmth born of pride and adoration that every medal, save one, bore at least two bars. The exception was the neck order Sephiroth wore around his throat: the Medal of Honor. Made out of platinum, the most precious metal on the planet, it hung from his neck by a thick, black ribbon. In all of recorded history, only one officer has ever been accorded the Medal of Honor. It was one of the few facts from his military history class Zack remembered.
Now that very officer stood less than a meter away from him, the epitome of elegance and power. Zack continued to stare fixedly at his commander, disbelief mingling with wonder. He was the awestruck child at the circus, riveted to the bold lion tamer as he commanded the great cats with a flick of his wrist and the crack of a whip. He was the small town boy struck dumb by the towers of steel and light, the seemingly endless flow of buses, trucks, and cars, and the clamor of day to day life in an urban center as he visits a city for the first time. He's the teenager awkwardly leaning in for his first kiss.
Zack's fantasies had brutally and without warning crossed their ethereal boundaries into reality, and his behavior was reflecting his mind's struggle to accept this new co-existence. Here, just an arm's length away, was a man Zack never entertained could be more breathtakingly beautiful than he all ready was. Seeing him resplendent in his military dress proved how narrow in scope his imagination could be. Zack continued his advance towards Sephiroth, the tension in his limbs no longer due solely to strenuous activity or guilt-tinged failure, but from restraint; calling on the last ounces of strength he possessed to prevent him from lunging at his commanding officer.
Throughout Zack's intense scrutiny, Sephiroth remained attentive and silent, mentally cataloging every detail of the young SOLDIER: the dirt and debris matting his hair, the salty smell of sweat-stained fatigues, the grime and blood smudging his face. Yet despite the filth and odor that coated his clothes and body, his amethyst eyes sparkled like multi-faceted gems set alight by the sun. Had he known the reaction his subordinate would have at the sight of his dress regs, he would have donned them long ago. The young man was practically salivating, his mouth parted slightly, the tip of his tongue flitting across his lips as he continued to close the distance between them.
Sephiroth found that Zack's cautious, but steady approach was having a profound effect on him. He felt titillated, his body rendered immobile and trembling by the anticipation of Zack's next move as he stopped centimeters from him. He raised his eyes to gaze into Sephiroth's. They were wide, alert, and sensitive to the slightest movement; the eyes of a predator patiently waiting for their prey to bolt, but Sephiroth had no intentions of running or gaining the advantage. His goal was to release Zack from "Colonel Fair." The young man that walked into his office this evening was not the Zack Fair that Sephiroth knew: confident, exuberant, and loyal. It was a stranger returning from his first command as a colonel, defeated and bent by the weight of responsibility for the deaths of several people, riddled with doubt about his abilities as a SOLDIER, and expecting the worst as he reported to his superior for debriefing.
Fortunately, a solution presented itself the second Zack switched on the lamp, and Sephiroth watched his expression turn from melancholy to shock and fascination as he beheld him in his finery. His decision regarding the best course of action was solidified as he witnessed the awe on Zack's face abandoned for emotions of a more primal nature, for a side of himself he kept caged and deprived. Inevitably, though, the caged will break free, and tonight it burst forth from Zack with a vengeance. He was in control; he wielded the power; and he was determined to have Sephiroth bend to his will. Under normal conditions, such bravado would be punished in a most humiliating, but satisfying fashion, but these were hardly normal conditions. Tonight, Zack would be rewarded for his tenacious efforts at attempting to gain the upper hand on Sephiroth time and again. Tonight, the general would submit not only to his young lover, but also to the unfamiliar feelings that Zack's dominating manner has stirred within him. If all went as planned, the Zack he knew and loved would be staring down at him, breathless and sated. If not, the secret lovers would be in for a long, long night.To be continued...
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