The First Champion @wingedladycolette
Going out

Zack collapses after the race is over, barely able to push himself over onto his back to stare up at the blue sky. It's an unusually bright day out by Midgar's standards. Zack likes it. It reminds him of home. Now all it needs is the fresh scent of the sea and the sound of waves crashing against the shores. But still, it's nice. The new class regiments just got five times harder, they really are working their cadets to the bone. Zack was excited at first, he's always up for a new challenge, but this is like soul-crushing. Nobody has the strength to do much anymore. The time to kill before going to get food is near none-existant and then afterwards everyone just trudges off to bed, too exhausted to do anything else.

Zack closes his eyes and listens to the sounds of the other boys finishing up the obstacle course. Zack covers his eyes with his arm. His blood is pounding in his ears. His head hurts. Now Zack really understands why it's so hard for people to get into the SOLDIER program. This type of training is brutal. The young wannabe hero finds a lot of comfort in his mentor.

Angeal is a constant calming and reassuring presences. He's been working hard to make sure Zack is taking good care of himself after the brutal beat down the Cadet program kicked into gear. More often than not, the older man would seek Zack out in random places where he found silent refuge and would just go to sleep. Most nights Zack would even skip going to dinner to eat because he's worn out. Angeal has taken it upon himself to ensure that Zack is eating and taking care of himself. Making sure that while he's physically exhausted, he's still dedicating time to studying for tests.

It was around this time that their relationship hit the first real bump in the road. Zack was annoyed and stressed and would just sometimes forget how much he really wants to be a hero in favor of getting over the mental and physical beat down. But Angeal stayed adamant. He believed in Zack and he wasn't going to let the young raven haired boy give up on his dreams because he had never dealt with that level of stress before.

Zack is so thankful that Angeal is willing to put up with him and he tells the older man every chance he gets, but it's really hard. Zack's life has always been all about having fun and being happy and while tests have always been a pain, it was just a small blip on the radar. But this was unlike anything he had ever dealt with and it was just getting to be out of control.

"You beat the record," Angeal says, looking down at the small boy. "That's a good thing, right?"

Zack nods slowly, then shrugs his shoulder. "Yeah, that's good, I guess." He rubs the back of his neck. He turns over onto his side and uses his arm as a pillow, trying to find a comfortable place to go to sleep. Angeal crouches down and just watches his student for a moment. "Was it ever this hard for you? The Cadet program, I mean."

Angeal smiles sympathetically. "Sorry, Zack, when I first joined, there wasn't a Cadet program." Zack groans loudly, rolling from side to side before settling on his back and slowly opening his eyes.

"Lucky duck. Me? I've lost control of my life." Zack rolls onto his other side and curls up into a ball. "Just leave me here, Angeal. I don't want to do anything more today. I'm done."

Angeal reaches out before hesitantly running his fingers through the soft spikes. "It'll be okay, Zack. Come on, you're done for today."

Zack shakes his head, whining softly, curling up more. "I am. Just leave me here. That way I won't be late tomorrow."

"Tomorrow's Saturday. There is no need to be here for tomorrow," he says kindly. Zack feels himself to slowly start drifting to sleep. With the combination of Angeal's gentle caress and the warm sun beating down on him, the temptation is too alluring. Sleep is a seductress that Zack can't refuse. Angeal's hand slips from Zack's hair and reaches out to grab his hands, giving them a little tug.

Zack lays there completely limp, groaning. "No, please, don't make me move."

Angeal hums softly, tugging lightly on the boy's arms again. "I can't just let you sleep out here. Come on, let's go to my apartment. Genesis is coming over for dinner again. He says he wants to make it a tradition. Come on, we can use it as an excuse to celebrate you getting first place of your year."

Zack lets himself be pulled to his feet but leans heavily on the older man. Zack wraps his arms around the First class SOLDIER's midsection while Angeal puts one hand on the younger of the two's waist to hold him up. Zack buries his face into Angeal's shoulder. "Can we celebrate by sleeping?"

Angeal laughs, leading the way to the tower, only stopping once to pick up Zack's backpack full of all of his books. "Zack Fair turning down a chance to eat? You must be sick."

After a few seconds of silence, a smile works it's way across his face. "Okay Angeal, you've twisted my arm far enough," Zack jokes softly. Angeal shakes his head, smiling to himself as Zack continues, "So maybe we can eat first, but I don't want anything that I am unable to identify. I want pizza or something. I don't want to be eating chocobo or nothing of the sort."

Angeal looks down at the smiling boy and smiles himself, pulling Zack along. "Deal. I'll call Genesis and tell him to pick it up."

When they get to Angeal's apartment, Zack makes a beeline for the switch for the ceiling fan, and then falls face first into the leather couch, worming his way into a comfortable position before falling completely still. Angeal walks into the living room a few minutes later after his phone call with Genesis. The red haired man was unusually excited about their dinner tonight.

But when Angeal asked about the sudden excitement over something so menial, he merely explained, "The complex level in which I operate on can't be fully fathomed with just words over the phone. It's an in-person experience, with words and facial expressions and gestures." Before Angeal could think of an accurate and witty comment for that oh-so-true statement, the red head hung up, promising to be there in about an hour. That, and he would pick up the pizza. Which surprised Angeal a bit, he was expecting a bit of begging but the red head was obviously in too good of a mood to keep up his sassy and childish attitude.

Angeal lowered himself into his arm chair that Genesis often frequents and picks up some discarded paperwork he had dropped there before heading off to see Zack perform in his first physical course. A few other SOLDIERs and gone to witness the potential new recruits and seemed impressed with Zack. There was only a handful of people that Angeal knew of that scored better than Zack on his first physical test.

The way they do physical tests in Shinra, is that they put all the classes that aren't the physical test that day first, and shorten them by like a half hour or something and then do the test at the end of the day, so they work as hard as they can, then they can go back to their bunks and reflect for the next one.

Sort of true to his word, Genesis came waltzing into the apartment about an hour and a half later with Sephiroth at his heels and two large pizzas in his hands, humming happily with himself as he sets the boxes onto the table.

"I should have just figured he'd con you into coming, Sephiroth," Angeal says with mirth as he makes his way into the kitchen to grab plates and glasses for drinks.

"My apologies once more," Sephiroth says, smoothly removing his shoes at the door, glancing over at Genesis who already has a slice of pepperoni pizza half eaten, frowning at yet another display of lack of respect. "My joining you was once again a last minute endeavor, next time you will surely be notified with adequate time to prepare."

Angeal waves the other man's words away dismissively. "Don't worry, Seph, I'm not mad by any means. It's nice to see you again."

Sephiroth nods, making his way over to the table, smelling the freshly baked pizza. He takes a few mouth watering inhales before finally turning back to Angeal. "Thank you, friend." His eyes roam the empty room before moving back to Angeal. "I was under the impression that Zackary was going to be joining us."

The darker haired man smiles a little and jerks his chin in the direction of the couch. "He is, but he's taking a little cat nap before dinner."

"Well, wake his ass up!" Genesis says, standing up after having finished his piece. "I've got wonderful news and he's got to hear it." Genesis walks over to the couch and looks down at the slumbering boy. "Wakey, wakey Za-" he pauses, blinking down at the boy. His happy expression turns to one of surprise. "Is he alright? He's pale and his heart rate is a little elevated."

Angeal nods. "Yeah, he's exhausted. They just bumped up the Cadet program training a few days ago and he's still trying to acclimate. As for the raised heart rate, I wouldn't be surprised if he was getting sick. I hear that there is a cold spiraling out of control in the second Cadet barracks. Zack lives in the first one. I wouldn't be surprised if it makes it's way into all three."

Genesis tilts his head, looking down at the sleeping boy. "Maybe he should take medicine. You know, get ahead of it?" Genesis stares a Zack a moment longer before looking over at Angeal and Sephiroth with a smile on his face. "Good Goddess, how much did I sound like Gillian there for a second?"

Angeal shakes his head. "Too much. But you have a point."

Zack shifts a bit on the couch. He murmurs softly in his sleep. Genesis reaches out and touches the young boy's shoulder and gives it a little shake. "Wake up, puppy, I've got pizza."

A grin works its way across Genesis's face at the sight of Zack stirring at the mention of food, until the boy opens a single blue eye to look up at him. Zack shifts onto his back, blinking up at the red haired man. He reaches up and rubs his eyes roughly, trying to shake the sleep away. "Genesis?" he slurs.

The red head leans in close. "Yes?"

"What kind of pizza did you get?"

Once Zack got a bit of food in his belly, he was more lively. Zack half heartedly greeted Sephiroth on his way to the table and was out of it for the first five minutes or so, barely able to stay awake sitting his chair. Zack rubs his face and starts working on his second piece of pepperoni pizza when Angeal finally turns to his childhood friend and asks, "So what's the good news, Genesis. You were practically splitting at the seams with excitement earlier. What's going on?"

"They are making it into a play!" Genesis yells, making a still, half-dozed Zack jump three feet in the air, the chair squeaking against the floor as it was scooted back in Zack's haste to get away from the loud sound. Zack's addled brain is fixated on fight or flight, unable to comprehend what just happened. His heart is racing, eyes wide, staring at the red head like he sprouted five heads and was breathing fire. Angeal reaches out and takes Zack's hand, pulling him back to the table so he can sit, pulling his chair up behind him.

Genesis smiles apologetically to the frightened and dazed boy.

"Are you okay?" Angeal asks softly, reaching out to rub the back of the boy with the frayed nerves.

Zack nods, leaning into the affectionate touch without being all that aware that he's doing it. "Sure, Angeal, I need a good heart attack to really..." he waves his hands around, unable to find the words until he settles with, "jolt you back into reality." He smiles at Genesis. "Now, what are who doing?"

"Loveless," Genesis says, grinning at three other occupants at the table, "they are making it into a play here in Midgar! I can't believe it! We all have to go and see the opening performance. Right? Right?"

"I'll go," Zack says, taking a bite with his pizza.

Angeal looks at Zack with a bit of worry. "And when is this?"

"They are still doing the casting," Genesis says, waving his hand around ambiguously. Zack's eyes follow the motion but doesn't understand what the gesture meant. "So, it won't be for a little while. Couple of months, maybe? If I had to guess."

"Oh," Angeal says, eyebrows raised. It makes him feel better knowing that it isn't right away. He's not all that sure Zack would be able to afford to be going out of doing anything really other than eat, sleep, train and bathe right now. The boy is stressed out enough as is, there is no need to just pile on other obligations on top of the other stuff. "Well, that's good," Angeal says, nodding his head, "I'll probably be there. Just let me know when it gets closer."

Genesis grins at his best friend, before looking over at the elegant long silver haired man. "What about you, Seph?"

Sephiroth brings up a fork with pizza neatly cut on the end of it up to his mouth, taking a bite and chewing thoroughly. After he swallows, he lays down the fork and knife to fold his hands on his lap. "Depending on what I have that day, will depend on my answer. But for now, it is acceptable. Give me more information as it comes."

Genesis nods. "Got it. Oh, this is so wonderful. I'm so excited!" Genesis continues eating, looking absolutely pleased with himself.

After a few minutes of them silently eating, when Zack slowly looked up at the red head across from him, tilting his head a little. He finishes chewing the bit of food in his mouth and swallowing, before asking, "Genesis?" The red haired man hums, mouth full, blue eyes flickering up to Zack, to show that he's listening. "What's Loveless?"

Angeal cringes the second that the words left Zack's mouth. It was a physical cringe that takes his entire body momentarily pulling in on himself. Sephiroth, to Zack's right, opposite of Angeal, pauses, fork halfway to his lips. Sephiroth's eyes flash between Zack and the completely frozen Genesis. The red head stares at Zack with wide eyes, mouth half open in complete shock. Zack looks around at the tense looking men at the table. No one moving or saying anything. Just looking around at everyone else.

"What?" Genesis whispers after a few tense moments of silence. Zack blinks a few times, confused as to what he did wrong. "What did you say, Zackary?"

Zack raises an eyebrow at the use of his full name. "Um... did I ask something wrong?"

Genesis narrows his eyes, closing his mouth to form a thin line, as if he's literally trying to contain his own shock. "You have never heard of Loveless, you uncultured swine?" Zack's eyes widen at the name, mouth opening to ask what he did wrong when Genesis continues, "It is only the most perfect and," he waves his hands around, trying to find the words. After a moment, he just stares at Zack in pure shock. Then, solemn understanding crosses his face.

"Gen?" Angeal calls out slowly, eyebrows pulled together in a slightly pained look. "Are you okay?"

Genesis reaches across the table and takes Zack's hand, looking into the younger man's eyes. "I'm going to educate you."

"Oh, no," Sephiroth sighs. Angeal cringes. Zack looks around, confused.

"...and no one knows how it ends," Zack says, looking around at the gathering of Cadets that heard Zack telling the story of Loveless the following morning. "There is suppose to be a fifth, unknown volume or whatever, that no has ever been able to find. Genesis calls it the 'lost Act' but Angeal whispered to me that he thought the author just didn't know how to finish it, so they didn't."

The gathering of boys around Zack murmur to one another. "That's weird," Kunsel says, cupping his chin. "If it's so popular, why wouldn't someone finish it? I mean, I get sometimes authors want that sort of suspense, but still..."

"That's the thing," Gabe says, "it's actually not all that popular. In fact it's like really old. Only recently did it start to gain popularity and I don't think I have to spell out why that is." He gave all the other boys a look that none of them seemed to pick up on. Gabe sighs, rolling his eyes. "It got popular because General Rhapsodos was seen carrying it around everywhere. That's why they are making a play about it. The play director is like, in love with General Rhapsodos."

Zack raises an eyebrow. "How do you know?"

"Because his mom's the director," James says, grinning over at his best friend. Gabe groans, covering his face with his hands. The other boys chuckle at that, reaching over and shoving the embarrassed hazel eyed boy. Gabe sends his best friend a dirty look to the sandy blond haired boy, who grins sheepishly in return. James even goes so far as to wave his hand a little in an attempt to surrender. Gabe rolls his eyes and looking away.

Chase leans in close to Zack, his light brown eyes looking around at the other boys. He lowers his voice and whispers, "What do you think the final act is about?"

Zack cups his chin, shaking his head. "I'm not sure." Then a thought occurred to him. Zack leans in close, eyes wide. "Have you heard about those people that believe in the Goddess's fighter? Oh, what the heck was he called?" Zack squints, trying to recall what Genesis called them. "Her... spartan? Her...gladiator? Her...kung-fu master? What the hell was he called?" he whisper's loudly.

"Champion?" Chase guesses, grinning at the dark haired boy. Zack nods, pointing at him. "To tell the truth, I didn't think you had ever heard of them. Pretty crazy? Believing in the Goddess's Champion more than the Goddess herself?"

Zack shrugs his shoulders. "I don't know. I'm not exactly someone who should be flinging mud so I can't very well say that someone is crazy in believing one thing or another. I just think that so long as they respect that not everyone believes that, and they respect it, then they are fine in my book."

Chase shrugs his shoulders, mimicking Zack. He smiles at the younger boy when he's sent a dry look. "Not a lot of people think like that," Chase says, dismissively waving the look away. "I don't know what to do."

Zack glances around, making sure that no one is listening in before focusing his sole attention of the darker skinned boy. "About what? Are you okay, Chase?" His blue eyes staring intently at his friend.

Chase lets out a little laugh, shaking his head. "I'm okay, Zack. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make it seem like I was in some kind of trouble." Chase reaches out and pats Zack on the shoulder, smiling faintly. "I meant that I don't know if I could be that dedicated to something that everyone else believed to be so wrong. I mean, people get so upset when they talk about those people. They hate the worshipers of the Champion. Like, seriously hate them. All because they believe that the Champion is the ultimate savior, not the Goddess."

Zack shakes his head slowly. "I didn't know that. I mean, I didn't know that people hated them. I just thought that people were... I don't know. I certainly didn't think hate."

The older boy smiles coyly. "Yes, naturally you wouldn't think that. You don't strike me as the type of person that would immediately think hate."

Zack smiles, shrugging his shoulders playfully, relieved that there isn't something wrong. "Okay, well, that's good. I don't want to be the type of person who just goes around judging everyone else. That's just not who I am."

"And that's what I liked most about you," Chase says, leaning back on his bunk. "You are just friendly to everyone."

Zack purses his lips at his friend. "It's a gift, I suppose."

Later on that day, Angeal, after finishing all his work for the day, found his student sitting in the middle of the training field, basking in the bits of sunlight that pierce through the thick smog. His hands running through the coarse, fake grass. Zack's eyes are closed, imagining that he's home. There is an early evening chill that makes the boy shiver, but he doesn't stop the robotic movements of his hands.

"What are you doing out here, Zack?" Angeal asks, lowering down onto his hunches, tilting his head at the small boy. Zack jumps a bit at the sound of his mentor's voice. "It's cold out here."

Zack looks over at Angeal and smiles. "I kind of like it. I'm not used to the cold. Gongaga's coldest time of the year is usually in the mid-60's. This has got to be lower than that, I believe." Zack looks around, letting out a long drawn out breath, the air from his lungs coming out like smoke faintly around his face. Zack looks back over at his mentor. "Don't you think so?"

Angeal nods. "It's pretty cold out," he repeats himself. "Aren't you cold?"

Zack stops his hands and pulls them both out in front of him. They're a bit numb but the friction has helped keep the blood flowing. But now that he's stopped it really is colder than he originally thought. It's getting closer and closer to christmas. Zack still has to go out and get gifts for everyone. Gabe, Kunsel, James, Chase, Angeal, Genesis and Sephiroth.

Well, he already has Genesis's present, and he already knows he's going to get Kunsel. But the rest of them are still up in the air. Zack will probably have to ask them what they want. Even though that kind of kills the surprise. He'll have to ask Gabe and James what the other would like, guess with Kunsel, ask Angeal about Sephiroth and ask Genesis about Angeal. Zack can already feel the headache. Thankfully, he still has plenty of time.

"I'm thinking about going into Midgar to get my friends a present for Christmas. Are you busy? You want to come with?" Zack asks. "I just need to head back to my bunk and get my money and get some ideas as to what they may like."

"I'm free," Angeal says, "for the most part. I need to be in a meeting at seven but we should be back by then."

Zack nods, climbing to his feet. "Okay, let's go!" Suddenly bursting with energy, Zack bounces off toward his barrack, Angeal following after, looking happy to see that Zack is acting a bit more like himself.

"Ho man, this is perfect!" Zack laughs, turning to Angeal and holding up a shirt that says "I'm with stupid" and an arrow pointing to the right. "It's like it was made for James." Angeal makes a face at that, showing he doesn't take much amusement in the gag gift. Zack pouts, lowering the shirt and putting it back onto the rack and walking over at his mentor.

Angeal is looking at a collection of earrings. There was big ones and small ones. Dangling ones and ones that... don't dangle. Dangling ones that are circles and ones that are a bunch of hanging threads. All different shapes and sizes and designs, Zack was never really one for jewelry but he knew that his ma wore stuff like that, but only in special occasions. Now that Zack is thinking about it, his ma was wearing golden earrings with some kind of jewel on them when she came to visit. Zack never thought to ask about them.

"Earrings?" Zack asks, peaking over Angeal's shoulder at the man quietly looking at all the different kinds of earrings. Angeal makes a humming noise but doesn't turn to look at him. After a long moment, Zack asks, "My ma wears earrings like those. Is it for a girl?"

Angeal's entire body freezes, his hand hovering over the selection before he lowers it back to his side and looks over at Zack. His face is completely void of emotion as he stares back at Zack as if he's trying to see something. There is a long drawn out silence between them. Zack looks around a little bit, not all that sure he knows what he did wrong, but the way that the older man was just staring at him, Zack had to wonder if it was his words that were what was wrong.

"I-I'm sorry!" Zack says, taking a step back and holding up his hands in a surrendering motion. "I didn't mean to pry or whatever."

"No..." Angeal says softly, looking down at the jewelry for just a couple of seconds before shaking his head and turning away, to Zack. He smiles thinly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to make you think..." he pauses, then just waves his hand around, as if pushing the words away. "Don't worry. And no, it's not for a woman. It's for Genesis. I was just wondering if there was anything here that he would want. There isn't."

"Oh!" Zack says, stepping closer again. "That's right, Genesis has an earring. I forgot! So nothing here for him?"

Angeal shakes his head, running a hand through his hair. "No, nothing here is really Genesis's style. I mean, there are nice things, just nothing really Genesis."

Zack nods, pursing his lips to the left, then the right, then to the left once again. Finally, Zack says, "I have a gift for Genesis for Christmas." Angeal looks over at him, curiously. Zack grins at him. "Do you want to hear it?"

"Sure," Angeal says, as the two make their way to the front door and out into the busy Midgar streets.

"But you have to promise not to tell," Zack says, looking up at his mentor while pulling his dark blue scarf tightly around himself. "Like, if the President himself asked you, you can't tell. If you are being tortured by enemies, you can't tell. If a meteor is falling from the heavens and you, by spilling this secret is the only way to save us all, you still can't tell. Promise?"

Angeal smiles, looking down at Zack with kind eyes. "You are asking me to forgo everyone else's lives on the off chance a meteor was heading for us and I am the only one that can save us, all to ensure that Genesis doesn't hear of his gift before you give it to him?" Zack's head bobs up and down quickly. "Alright, alright. I promise. Now spill."

Zack blushes, feeling quite proud of himself. "My friend Gabe's mom is the director for that play Genesis wants to go to so she's going to get me a couple of tickets for opening night. The only catch is, however," Zack says slowly, rubbing his cold hands together. Now that he's not frantically rubbing them against the grass, it's pretty cold out. "She wants to meet with him after the show. I think she's like a big fan or something. Do you think he'll mind?"

"Not at all," Angeal says, cupping his chin. "In fact, I think he would probably want to go and see her anyway. He's really in love with this story. I just hope that it comes out well." Angeal nods to himself before dropping his hand. "So, you probably just gave him the best present of all. I have no idea of how I am going to top that. Thanks."

Zack sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "Sorry! This is probably the best gift that I could give anyone. And I'm giving it out the first Christmas with Genesis. How in the world am I going to follow up next year?" Zack laughs, smiling up at Angeal. "Sorry, I didn't mean to try and out shine anyone."

Angeal waves the apology away. "It's fine. Genesis, contrary to people's belief, is actually very much open to gifts. He's not picky about what he receives. Sometimes he'll act like he does if he doesn't like you, which is where the idea came from, but he's really not."

Zack smiles and raises his eyebrows at the older man. "Are you sure that it's just you and Sephiroth that he's not picky with?"

Angeal stops walking, turning slowly to look at the younger man with his eyebrows pulled together. "Huh, I never thought of that. I guess I don't really know." Angeal looks thoughtful as he turns away and keeps walking on.

After a few minutes, they make their way down the street. Zack steps in closer to the older man, using him to block out some of the harsh wind that is starting to funnel down through the streets. After a moment, Zack stuffs his hands into his pockets to protect them from the cold and bury his nose into the scarf a bit. Angeal looks over at him, looking him up and down. His eyebrows pull together and he leans in close.

"Are you okay? Is it getting too cold out?"

Zack smiles a bit at the older man. "A bit. Can we check out one or two more stores before heading home? I want to see if I can get at least something for one of the other guys, or at least a better idea."

Angeal nods. "Alright, that's fine. So what are you thinking about?"

"Well, Gabe is really into like night clubs and dancing and girls. And James is into books and little mechanical gadgets and girls. And then my friend Chase is like this kind little, shy bug. He likes building things and cars and I think he's religious. He has a cross of the goddess around his neck. I didn't notice it until I just went to see him. And then there's Kunsel. Another ladies man who enjoys goofing off and he's a really good at shooting with a BB," Zack says.

Angeal hums softly, looking around at the shops around them, trying to find something that might be able to help them.

"Is it weird?" Zack asks suddenly.

"Is what weird?" Angeal asks, looking down at Zack curiously.

He shuffles his feet a bit, embarrassed. "That I'm not really super interested in girls. Is that weird?"

"No," Angeal says immediately, making Zack jump a bit at just how firm the older man said it. "No," he says softer. "There is nothing wrong with not being interested in girls. But remember Zack, there is a huge difference in not being interested in girls, and not being interested in girls yet. You're only fifteen. There is no need for you to be out looking around for a wife just yet. You have time."

Zack stares up at Angeal with big innocent eyes, mind analysing the older man's words. After a few brief moments, Zack finally says, eyes glued to the concrete as the continue their way down the street, "Are you sure? I mean, all the guys are obsessed with girls and they aren't all that much older than me. I can't picture the me now, somehow turning into someone more like them in just a year's time. Are you certain there is nothing wrong with me?"

"Positive," Angeal says, nodding once to himself. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Hey, how about this store?"

Zack steps away from the building a bit and looks up at the sign, a laugh ripping from his throat as he looks at Angeal with surprised eyes. "Lego Land?"

Angeal shrugs his shoulders, not at all embarrassed. "What? You're friend Chase likes to build things right?"

Zack laughs, rubbing his hands together roughly to warm them up before heading for the front door. "I guess nothing helps you build things better than a bunch of legos, amiright?" Zack laughs again, heading inside.

Angeal follows after. "Yes, you are."

They look around the store a bit as Zack wars with himself trying to decide if he should give his friend legos that go with a certain theme, like pirates or SOLDIERs or something or if just plain legos would suffice. It isn't until almost a half hour has passed of them just looking around at all the different types of legos, that Zack decides that it's best to get a theme based one, but now he has to find out what Chase would like.

"Okay, I'm tired, I'll come back out next weekend and look around," Zack yawns, stretching his arms up over his head before letting them drop to his sides. "Let's head home, Angeal." Zack grins at the small crowd that had made their way around the raven haired man, oogling him with a mixture of admiration and some with down right hero worship. Zack slowly backs up toward the door. "Angeal!" He calls out in a sing-song voice, drawing the First's attention. "Can we go home now? I love you!" And without even a thought against it, Zack brings his hands up to form a heart.

Angeal looks less than pleased when he smoothly apologizes for having to depart before peeling himself away from the now annoyed crowd to make his way over to Zack. "Are you done?"

Zack tries to smother his laughter. "Not yet," he says, then he blows a kiss to the older man. "Now I am." Then he quickly bolts out the door, knowing that the annoyed man would follow after. Angeal catches up with him a moment later, giving him a look that Zack has begun to associate with being slightly amused and slightly annoyed.

"Bad boy," Angeal says, shaking his head.

Zack laughs. "Oh come on, Angeal. That was pretty good. Did you see some of their faces?"

"I'm trying to wipe it from my mind," Angeal mutters, pulling out his phone out of his pocket to check the time before putting it back into his pocket. "Come on, I'll walk you back. It'll give me a few free minutes to get to the meeting."

After a few minutes of silence, they draw closer to the tower, Zack asks, "Do you know what Sephiroth would like for Christmas?"

Angeal looks a little surprised before the look falls away and Angeal looks forward, choosing his words carefully. "Zack, you don't need to get bent out of shape for Sephiroth. He's the type of person who will be happy just receiving anything with a bit of thought put into it. He's not picky about anything. And to be honest, Sephiroth isn't really all that good with getting gifts. He tries but, most of the time he just doesn't have the time to get really thoughtful gifts, so he usually opts for other ways to make it up to us." Angeal shrugs his shoulders, then immediately looks horrified.

Zack tilts his head. "Like what?"

Angeal cringes, looking away from Zack. The young man squints at his mentor, curious about his odd behavior. Angeal presses his lips together in a hard line before finally saying, "Just... things."

Zack's curiosity peaks a bit more. "Like what?"

Angeal doesn't respond at first. He lets out a slow, drown out breath before shaking his head. "I don't know, pup, I really don't. Please stop asking about his."

Zack raises his eyebrows. "Why?"

Angeal sighs, running his hand through his hair, picking up his speed a bit. Zack speeds up too, just trying to keep up with the taller man. Zack doesn't push anymore, just stares up at him. Finally, Angeal says, "It's just a part of my life that I'm not sure how to broach with you."

Zack makes a face. "Roach?"

Angeal finally looks at him. "No, broach."

"What does that mean?" Zack asks innocently.

Angeal smiles a little, faintly. "It means I'm not sure how to really go about talking with you about that topic."

"Why?" Zack asks without thinking. Angeal gives him a tired look which makes him hold up his hands in surrender again. "Sorry. No more. I'll drop it."

"Thank you." Angeal slows down to a more normal pace. Zack sighs a bit in relief. The two of them make their way onto Shinra property and head toward the barracks. Once they stop outside, they both turn to one another. After a few long seconds of them just staring at one another, Zack just smiles sweetly up at his mentor. Big blue eyes looking up at his mentor through thick, dark lashes.

"Angeal," Zack says slowly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to overstep my boundaries. I'm not..." he sighs, then continues, "I'm not exactly the smartest or most alert person, so I sometimes miss obvious signs. You just have to tell me to back off and I will. I'm sorry if I made you mad." Don't stop being my mentor, he didn't say. If Angeal wasn't even considering it, there was no way Zack was going to voluntarily put the idea in his head.

Angeal's eyes widen a bit. "No, Zack, I'm not mad!" He reaches out, as if to grab onto Zack's arms but then he closes his hands into fists and lowers them to his side. "Listen, I'm not mad. I was just... caught off guard by the question. It was a slip of the tongue. But... something like that," Angeal shakes his head, closing his eyes for a moment before letting his entire body relax. His mako blue eyes open up again and focus down at Zack. "We can talk about that, but not now. I have to go, okay? Are we okay?"

Zack nods. "Yeah, so long as you aren't mad."

Angeal smiles tiredly. "I'm not. I'll see you tomorrow, probably."

Zack smiles back. "Okay. And thank you for coming out with me today. Bye bye!"

Angeal nods once, turns around and smoothly makes his way to the tower. Zack watches until the older man has disappeared from his sight, before he turns around and heads inside the barracks.

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