The First Champion @wingedladycolette

SOLDIERs can lie.

Angeal lied.

Zack is in his Mako: Forms and Properties class, sweating up a storm. His entire body is shaking and - is his arm tingling? Is Zack having a heart attack? Oh, Goddess, he is. Isn't he a little too young to be having a heart attack? What was it that his ma always said, "Zack, if you don't eat all of your vegetables you will have to sit in front of the t.v for one whole hour, without moving do you hear me?" Wait, that has nothing to do with heart attacks, that was just something that his ma always said to him to make sure he ate all of his vegetables.

But this pain in his arm has to be a heart attack right? Well, it's no so much pain as it is some kind of weird tingling sensation. No, wait. It's just tired from him shaking it subconsciously. What in that world is that sound? Dear Gaia, could Kunsel breath any louder? If he doesn't stop with that excessive wheezing, Zack is going to throw a desk at him. They're friends, good friends, but there is a point in every friendship were a desk might have to be thrown. And Zack didn't expect it to be this soon in theirs.

Doesn't he realize that Zack needs to concentrate if he's going to have any hope of completing this test?

That wheezing sound is grating on his nerves, he opens his mouth about to tell Kunsel to shut the fuck up, when it stops. Zack waits a moment, straining his ears to see if he could still hear it. Nothing. He closes his mouth and it continues. Opens it and the noise stops. Oh, it's him wheezing, not Kunsel. Awkward. He was about to throw a desk at an innocent man. That would have been embarrassing to explain. Zack takes a deep breath and holds it.

What's that noise?

Tap, tap, tap.

Zack glances around the room, seeing people shifting but nothing to indicate where the tapping is coming from. Scribbling away diligently on their tests. How can they not hear that? How is that obnoxiously loud tapping not grating away at their nerves like it is with his own?

Tap, tap, tap, tap.

Zack's eyes drop to the floor. It's his right leg jiggling up and down, the heel of his foot slapping against the hard floor. He forces himself to stop it. How come it sounds like a jackhammer on concrete to him, and yet everyone else can continue with their tests like nothing is happening?

Is it raining? Inside the building? Why is Zack wet all over? Is that him sweating? Oh gross. He's going to definitely need a shower after this. Okay, now his head is dizzy. Zack exhales, not even feeling slightly better. He has to blink multiple times to get the black spots on his vision to go away. Was he holding his breath that entire time?

Is that the clock ticking? How much time does he have left? Did someone just flip to the next page in their test? Are they done? How much time does Zack have left to finish this test? It feels like it's been hours. Is he almost done with this abomination?

He glances down at the paper and a lump forms in his throat. Who the hell is Kcaz and why the hell hasn't he done a single question on the test yet? What the hell language is this damn test written in? How do they expect Zack to take this test if he can't read the language? Zack would be inclined to believe it's counter-productive. Another glance at the paper and Zack's seeing what appears to be ancient Wutaian hieroglyphs. Now what the hell is he supposed to do? He conveniently forgot to brush up on his study of hieroglyphs. To be honest, they all just like messed up block drawings to Zack, like a two-year-old drew them.

All those articles were right: Getting into the SOLDIER Program is damn near impossible. The prerequisites is astounding. Zack has to seriously consider whether or not it's smart to take the extra classes on preparing for the final at the end of the program. Clearly, someone forgot to mention to Zack that he would have to have a whole slew of information on ancient cave drawings or whatever before he joined.

Something snaps. Zack jumps at the sound. Wow, that was loud. Is it storming outside? The weather said nothing about there being a storm today. Why was everyone staring at him? Zack looks down at his hand. His fist is clenched so tight, his knuckles are white. His poor pencil is snapped in half, the plastic leaving little splinters in his hand. A worn out yellow chocobo face staring back at him as if to ask, "Why?" He laughs nervously, it sounded painful to his ears.

"Flimsy thing," he says, dropping the broken remains of his chocobo pencil onto the corner of his desk. The class turns away and continues on their papers. How in the world can they read these alien languages? Oh Lifestream, why is his test a grocery list? How do they expect him to figure this out? What in the world is happening?

Zack digs around in his backpack to grab another mechanical pencil, silently mourning the chocobo pencil he's had since he was ten. His hand hovers over the test once more, trying to get the blurry words to make sense. Zack's eyes flicker over to the brutalized remains of his favorite pencil. It has been through a lot with him. It deserves a proper burial. Probably a Viking one if nothing else. Zack probably has to wait until he's old enough to drink alcohol and learn how to properly shoot a bow and arrow. And probably get over his fear of fire first too.

His chocobo pencil deserves nothing less.


Zack blinks, looking up to see Instructor Evan's mako blue eyes staring down at him. "Uh, yes, sir?"

"The bell rang. Class is over."

Zack looks around the room, a lump forming in his throat at the sight of the near-empty class. Kunsel waiting for him by the door, eyes unreadable. Zack slowly drags his eyes back to his test. The one that is clearly written in Midgarian with the name space filled in with the most sloppy 'Kcaz' the young man has ever seen. Other than that the entirety of the paper is empty. Not a single question is answered. Although there is a strange collection of dots on the right side from when Zack was tapping it with his pencil. The last marks his chocobo pencil will ever leave behind.

Slowly, Zack lowers his trembling hand onto the desk, not trusting himself to not cry. He quickly throws the ugly secondary red pencil and shovels the remains of Chocobo pencil into his backpack and stiffly stands up, unable to look Evans in the eyes as he made his way to the door, shame coloring his face and burning the back of his eyes. It happened again. He knew it was going to happen and it still got him. Angeal had lied. Zack knew the answers. Why couldn't he take the test? What was wrong with him?

"Are you okay?" Kunsel asks. Zack brushes past him, not wanting his new friend to see just how upset Zack really was. He's not a crier. He just shrugs stuff off and moves on with his life but for some reason, this hit him a lot harder than anything else. He always got upset in Gongaga when his teachers would ask him why he never studied for his test and stare at him blankly when he insisted that he did. It wasn't fair. He tried so hard and yet he couldn't even write his own name correctly!

He knew the answers! As soon as he looked back down at the paper and understood the questions, he knew the answer right away. Why couldn't he have done that while the testing time was taking place? What was wrong with him?

"Zack? Hey, Zack, are you okay?" Kunsel catches up and looks down at Zack. "Hey, what's wrong?"

Blinking rapidly, Zack forces a smile and looks up at Kunsel. "I'm really tired. I don't... I don't think I did too well on that test." Zack laughs lightly, the noise strange in his ear. Kunsel's eyebrows pull together at the strained sound of the other boy's laughter. "I'll try harder n-next time." The prospect of there being a next test was very foreboding.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Kunsel asks, looking worried.

"Yup. See you later, Kunsel! I got to go do something! Bye!" Zack waves and runs off as fast as he can. He could hear Kunsel call out to him but he didn't stop. Thankfully that was his last class of the day. Now he can go shower and be alone for a few hours before bed. He takes a roundabout way to the barracks, avoiding anyone and everyone he can. He drops his books off at his bunk and grabs his toiletries and heads to the shower rooms.

The showers, quiet and empty this time of day, was almost as welcoming as his own mother's embrace. In the two short weeks that Zack has been in Shinra, he hasn't missed his mom quite as much as he does now.

There is two attached rooms separated by a wall leaving a space big enough to get access to the other room. There are about fifty shower stalls in each side of the room. Enough room for all of the cadets this year to shower without having to wait in line. It doesn't mean that there is ever enough hot water to go around but it beats having to wait in line. There is waist-high separators for each stall and drains every couple of feet.

Zack goes into the other room all the way to the backside. He hangs up his towel and new set of clothes before making his way over to the faucet and turns it on, stepping out of the way of the spray. He peels off his nasty clothes and leaves them in a pile on the floor away from the water. Zack's not a shy guy. What little self-conscious Zack might have had, pre-Shinra, is gone now. As weird as it sounds, Zack has gotten used to washing himself, naked. In a room, filled with other people, who happens to also be washing themselves... and are also naked.

Perhaps he simply didn't give it a lot of thought until right now. He's never been all that good at forethought.

Zack waits for the water to warm up before stepping under it, letting the water cascade down his back. Zack's chin touches his chest as he closes his eyes. This entire day has been a huge mess. He failed the test he studied so hard for, and he also has to bury a friend. Zack figured he was going to have to wait until he at least steps foot on the battlefield before something like that happens. Maybe Instructor Evans will let him retake the test or something. Can he do that? This entire thing is just stressing Zack out to no end.

Angeal, the First Class SOLDIER, lied. Even though Zack studied really hard, he still failed. He still bombed it in such a way that he'll never recover from. It's one thing to be like, "Aw man, I thought it was B but changed it to C at the last minute" but Zack can't even do that. He didn't fill in a single thing. What in the world was he thinking? His SOLDIER career is going to be over long before it starts. It's going to be one of those things where he is going to bring shame to the Fair family for years to come. He might as well be a subject of inbreeding. At least that he has no control over.

Running a hand through wet hair, while painful, helps Zack get a little bit of his frustration out. That and quite a bit of hair. At least he's not crying. Everything could have been so much worse if he had started crying. He's going to be a SOLDIER someday and SOLDIERs don't cry. But they do lie, apparently.

Zack pouts, crouching down, letting the water wash over him. It's not Angeal's fault that Zack didn't pass but it feels better to be upset about something so human than facing the fact that he's to blame for what went wrong. He hates himself for wanting to blame Angeal when it really was all of his own fault that he failed, not the SOLDIER's. Still slightly upset, Zack straightens up, grabbing the shampoo bottle and begins to wash his hair. Maybe it's best to just forget about this whole horrible experience.

Zack quickly finishes up and redresses himself, heading back to his barracks with his dirty clothes in hand. It's filled with cadets waiting for food to be done before they can go to the cafeteria. Zack shakes all of the doom and gloom from his posture and forces a smile, making his way over to Kunsel, Gabe, James, and Chase after leaving his dirty clothes at the foot of his bed to go clean later.

"Hey," Kunsel says when Zack sits down next to James on the floor. Kunsel and Chase sit on Kunsel's bunk and Gabe is digging around in his bag at the foot of Kunsel's bed, his bunk right above it. "How are you, Zack?"

"Good," Zack says. "Better," he admits. "So what's going on?"

"Planning an outing this weekend," James says. "Thinking about hitting the town. We only have training till two on Saturday and we're off on Sunday. It seems like the best time."

Zack nods. "Can I come along?"

James smiles. "Sure, Zack. I was actually just about to ask you if you wanted to come. It's more fun with more people."

"Agreed..." Gabe says, still shuffling around in his pack. "Ah! Got it!" He plops down on Zack's other side and holds out a flyer for Zack to take.

"Shade's teen night?" Zack reads. "Fifteen to nineteen welcomed and awaited. Saturday the 24th. Enjoy drinks, food, and music." Zack looks over at Gabe with a raised eyebrow. "So, tomorrow?"

"Shade's a nightclub," Kunsel explains, nodding.

Zack stares blankly. "I haven't the slightest clue what you just said to me."

"A nightclub is this place where there is music and dancing. Shade's just one of the many nightclubs in Midgar. It's one of those newer ones but I have high hopes for this club," James says, looking down at the flyer. "So, are you in?"

Zack purses his lips. "I'm a horrible dancer," Zack admits then smiles. "But you did say food and I'm all about food."

Kunsel snorts. "Food is definitely the way to Zack's heart. I guess I'm in too."

Zack nods then stops. "Wait, I'm not fifteen."

"Shut up," Gabe says.


"I said, shut up, Zack. You're coming."

"But I'm not-"

"I know this. Kunsel knows this and so does James. Chase didn't know this originally but now he does," Gabe says. Chase nods, shrugging his shoulders. "But the guys at the club won't have to nor will they need to know this. Right?"

"I'm not comfortable with lying-"


Zack presses his lips into a fine line before nodding. "Right."

"Awesome," Gabe turns to Kunsel, plucking the flyer from Zack's fingers to show it to Chase and Kunsel. Zack turns to look at James with really big eyes, blinking very slowly at him. James raises an eyebrow at him.


Zack blinks slowly at him again. "I hate lying. James, it is literally anti-me."

James nods, putting an arm around Zack's shoulders. "I know. I get it. Everything will be okay."

Zack sighs. "My ma's never going to forgive me for this."

"I'm sure she will."

"No, she's threatened to disown me for less." Zack stares blankly at the ground. "This weekend should be interesting."

"Yeah," James says. "You can take this time to forget about your problems and all the stressful things in your life."

Zack briefly thinks back to his earlier freak out about his test. Yes, that ended absolutely horribly but at least this opportunity has presented itself to give him some sort of release from the upset and pain. Maybe, this test is affecting him a little more than all the others. Maybe because this is Shinra and SOLDIER that he's dealing with. He didn't care as much in Gongaga but this is different. This is his dream. And each failed test is like a chainsaw hacking away at his chances of becoming a hero.

"Okay," Zack says, trying not to linger on that terrifying thought. "Maybe one little white lie isn't so bad in the grand scheme of things. Right?"

James nods. "Right."

So, a small part of Zack was hoping Angeal would show up again today. He's the only one in the gym, as he feels is going to become his new morning routine, and he's doing crunches on one of the mats. Working on one's core is essential for being a SOLDIER. That and muscle strength in his arms and legs, as well as endurance too. Zack has a long way to go before he's SOLDIER ready.

There is ready.

And then there's SOLDIER ready.

Anyway, so the small part of Zack that hopes Angeal will show up just so he can tell him how much of a liar he is. Not because he hates Angeal or is mad at him for lying to an innocent cadet such as himself, which was totally uncalled for, but because he hasn't ever seen a First Class SOLDIER before. And to be honest, Angeal sought out Zack first with his strange psychic powers. Now he has to own up, in Zack's opinion.

But the other pat of Zack doesn't want to see Angeal until he's able to prove to him that Zack Fair is going to make it to First Class and he's going to be the biggest hero the world has ever seen. Is wanting a First Class SOLDIER in complete awe at how amazing Zack is too much to ask?

Angeal didn't show up that morning. And Zack couldn't help the small pout of disappointment he felt as he made his way to the lunchroom to eat and to shower before class started. It was nice that all the classes were cut in half to get them all in before lunch than then the Cadets had all of that free time. In Zack's last class, Mako: Forms and Properties, Instructor Evans passed back the tests and Zack's face darkened in shame when Evans laid his on Zack's desk face down giving him a disappointed look, though thankfully said nothing and moved on.

Zack stuffs the test in his bag without looking at it, shrinking in his chair and flinching every time Instructor Evans glanced at him during the lesson to make sure he's listening. It hurts to be disappointed in by Instructor Evans who is the only Instructor that is Second Class. In his brief introduction at the beginning of class the first day he told them that he taught primarily as a Third and enjoyed it enough to continue once he became a Second. Zack liked his quiet disposition and his kind, slightly slanted eyes, indicating some Wutaian blood in him and the way he patiently waiting for people to finish scribbling down notes before continuing.

After class is over, Zack rushes to the door, not wanting Instructor Evans to have the chance to ask him to stay after. Kunsel is quick to catch up.

"Excited for tonight?" Kunsel asks misunderstanding Zack reason for rushing out of class.

Zack shrugs. "Are you?"

Kunsel slings his backpack over his shoulder. "I guess. It'd be cool to have some time to relax, all this training is killing my muscles, but dancing isn't exactly my forte either. I'll probably be bumming it with you at the food bar."

Zack grins, feeling better now with the distraction. "Awesome. I was hoping I wasn't going to be the only one who's going to be rolled home."

Kunsel laughs, light brown eyes even lighter in the bright hallway. "How much do you plan on eating?"

"Depends on how good it is," Zack laughs.

When the two get their food and sit at the table, Gabe is quickly doing something on his phone, making sure they'll be able to get in tonight while James is heading up to get food for himself and Gabe.

"How long have you and James known each other?" Zack asks, watching Gabe type away on his phone.

"Um... we both grew up here in Midgar. I moved here when I was like six right next door to him and we've been best friends ever since," Gabe says, hazel eyes darting up slightly as if mentally checking if that's right before nodding and looking back down at his phone. "Hells yeah! Okay, we are on the list! Good." He lays his phone down on the table and leans back, grinning.

"Do you usually have to get on some sort of list to get into a club?" Zack asks, intrigued by this. This is no nightclubs back in Gongaga, so all of this is new to him.

Gabe shrugs. "In some cases, yes. But this is just to make sure that we can get in before it gets filled up. No waiting outside in the cold tonight for us."

"Ya-hoo," Kunsel says, pushing around his chicken with his fork. James returns with two trays, laying one in front of Gabe, while the latter tells him about the club. He smiles faintly.

"That's good, at least."

"Yeah, so tonight, we are leaving at seven-thirty. Make sure you're dressed casual, nothing Shinra," Gabe says taking a bite of his green beans. "Thanks, by the way, James."


Kunsel taps his fork on the plastic tray. "Not that I'm going to be a walking billboard for the company at a nightclub, but why nothing Shinra?"

Gabe shrugs. "It's just not cool. No one cares where you came from. Some people don't like Shinra so much so they would rather be able to look around at anything but Shinra. Their name and insignia are plastered all over the place. This is their time away, you know?"

"Something against Shinra?" Kunsel mutters, rubbing at the back of his messy hair. "They are in the wrong city if they do."

James purses his lips and looks over at Zack. "You got anything like that?"

Zack rolls his eyes back and forth, thinking about it. He hasn't done much other than training since he got here. Did he have anything that wasn't provided by Shinra? Well, he did come in with clothes that weren't provided. Maybe there is something at the bottom of his backpack that he hasn't touched since he got here. "Maybe. I think my ma might have packed me something."

"Well, you have to look cool when you go to a club," Gabe says, grinning at James. "If you want to pick up any ladies."

"Ladies?" Zack murmurs, blinking slowly.

Gabe laughs, "Aw, Zack's so innocent, he hasn't thought about girls yet."

A blush warms Zack's face. "Have so! Come on! I'm just about fifteen, I got time to think about girls later. Dream first!"

"Yeah, lay off, Gabe," Kunsel jokes. "Zack will be beating them off with a stick when he becomes a First Class SOLDIER, he needs to focus until he gets there."

Zack nods, smiling. "Yeah, what Kunsel said." If he can make it there. Maybe they'll overlook the academics if he can blow them away in the physical parts of his training?

Gabe rolls his eyes and James laughs, covering his mouth so food can't be seen. After he swallows, he says, "Why does it have to just be Zack? The rest of us will be big-time SOLDIERs too, right?"

Zack nods. "Totally." Looking up and smiling widely, when Chase, looking timid, inches closer to their table. "Hey, Chase. Want to sit?" He gestures toward the empty seat next to him.

Chase's face splits into a happy smile and he eagerly takes the seat offered to him by the youngest amongst them. "Thanks, Zack."

Zack pats his back, grinning. "No problem, Chase."

After lunch, the five head back to their barracks to find some clothes to wear. Zack ended up having to borrow a black wife beater and navy green short sleeve button up. "Keep unbuttoned," Gabe warned him. He had dark wash skinny jeans that he could tuck into his regulation boots. Gabe looked hesitant at first but both Kunsel and James noted that there was no Shinra logo anywhere on the boot, and the man had no choice to give in. Especially when Zack showed him his sneakers from home, all torn up and worn down.

"I play hard," Zack laughs at the horrified look on his friends' faces.

With that decided, they goofed off, playing card games and working out a bit before showering and changing to head out to Shade. Chase was eager to of been invited, having not quite found a group to fit in with, he's been floating around the groups and finally seems to have found a place with Zack, Kunsel, Gabe and James. All four are nice enough as it is, their friendship as a group is still relatively new in and of itself. One more person couldn't hurt. Their dynamics were still taking shape as of now.

Mostly dressed in tee-shirts and jeans, except Gabe was in beige colored cargo shorts, and different assortment of sneakers and regulation boots, the group makes their way off Shinra property and into the city at around seven twenty.

"Have you ever been to a nightclub, Chase?" Zack asks.

Chase shakes his head. "They had them in Kalm but I never went. This will be my first."

Gabe, overhearing this, says, "Looks like Kunsel, Zack and Chase are all about to lose their nightclub virginities."

James flinches at that. "Why do you have to make it sound so dirty?"

Gabe laughs, clapping James on the back without answering. Kunsel gives Zack a pointed look before playfully rolling his eyes. Zack just stared ahead, not really understanding, but not seeing it as important enough to question. Chase just shakes his head on Zack's left. The group walks slowly, making sure that they arrive at the door of the nightclub at the time it opens. There is already a line to get into the club by the time they get there.

"Midgar likes to party," Zack murmurs, staring at all the different teenagers that have crawled out of the woodworks just to come to this party. Zack even recognizes some of the other cadets amongst those in the line. Gabe walks up to the bouncer, says a few things and the bigger man nods, looking at Zack and the others when Gabe gestures to them. Zack's palms start to sweat when his eyes fall on him, prepared for him to call Zack out on not being fifteen, but his eyes move on and eventually, he nods and lets them through.

"That was so scary," Zack admits, whispering it into James' ear. "I thought for sure I was going to get caught."

"Told you," James says, grinning. "Everything will be alright. Besides, your birthday is soon, no one cares about a couple of days. This guy isn't paid to care about someone sneaking into Teen Night not being fifteen just yet. He's probably more interested in people too old trying to sneak in."

Zack nods, as they enter the club and are immediately hit with heat and a deep base that shakes Zack to the core. It's mostly dark with flashing lights and cool glowing designs on the walls. People are getting multi-colored bracelets and stickers just inside. Zack slips on one bracelet on each wrist and a chocobo karate-kicking sticker on his left cheek. They have a black light somewhere in the room. Zack can see everyone's white teeth glowing brightly.

The girl who gave Zack his sticker, putting it on his cheek when he turned it to her, grins brightly. "This your first time at Shade?"

Zack nods sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "Does it show?"

She nods, her blond hair glowing. "Yeah, you look a little nervous." Her eyes flicker over Zack's shoulder before looking back to him. "And your friends bailed on you. Common in a nightclub, unfortunately."

Zack spins around to see that yes, his friends were gone. Disappeared into the thong of swaying bodies. Sighing, Zack turns over to the girl and shrugs. "I guess that's probably my luck."

The girl smiles. "It doesn't have to be considered bad luck, does it?" She asks slowly.

Zack considers, nodding. "You're right. Now I can go check out the food without having to worry about them. Thanks."

The girl blinks. "Oh, uh, you're welcome."

Zack waves, moving to skirt around the perimeter of the room, heading to the only brightly illuminated part of the room where there is like a bar full of food just waiting to be eaten by Zack. Anything to forget about the horrible last few days he's been having.

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