The First Champion @wingedladycolette
Next Test

After they finished dinner, Genesis, Sephiroth and Zack go into the livingroom while Angeal, per his own insistence, does the few dishes quickly. Zack looks between the two newly met friends. Or at least they are his mentor's friends. Zack could only hope that they become his friends. Does that sound fake? Oh, of course you want to be friends with living legends! Who wouldn't? You'd be a fool to not want that!

What if they thought that he was in this for connections? Zack knows that he's not, but these people don't! What if they are just humoring him, preparing to kick him out of Shinra for being so naive? No, that's a little overboard. Of course they wouldn't kick him out for such a silly reason. But what does it say when all one can think about is his own insecurities?

That's not him. That's not how Zack plays.

Straightening himself up, Zack sits properly on the couch. "So, I wanted to say thank you for letting me be part of..." he gestures around the room, ambiguously, before dropping his hand back onto his lap. "...this. It's kind of nice to take a night off."

Sephiroth sits a bit stiffly on the couch, opposite side of Zack. He looks a mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable. Like he's trying hard to relax but something is holding him back. His hands lay folded elegantly on his lap. Those hands so long and dainty yet capable of killing so efficiently and brutally. He looks around the room, eyes stopping on the space between the window and the television.

Genesis leans back in the plush leather of the love seat. His left leg crosses over his right one and his hands also fold neatly on his lap. But unlike Sephiroth, he's completely relaxed and in his place. It's like he owns this place, more than Angeal does, and there's no other place he'd rather be.

Zack twiddles his thumbs around for a moment before looking up to see both Genesis and Sephiroth staring at him. He rolls his eyes around the room, trying not to look at either of them before finally he smiles crookedly. "So, did either of you ever experience... lack of focus while taking tests?"

Genesis stares blankly. "No."

Sephiroth also shakes his head. "I also have never had such an issue."

Zack purses his lips, leaning back a little bit more into the plush, yet stiff couch. It's definitely not being used enough. Zack crosses his ankles and looks up at the plain ceiling. Tomorrow is his next test. It's on Midgar History. He and Angeal have been preparing vigorously for this test. Zack knows Midgar's history forward and backwards down to the tiniest little detail. Angeal practically drilled it into his brain. Angeal even gave him some tips on trying to keep focused while taking the test and all Zack can do is hope that it works.

Angeal did tell him that if Zack couldn't do it, couldn't find his focus, that he could leave class and go find Angeal and they would look over the test together. "But only if you need it," he said when Zack opened his mouth to protest. Zack still insisted that he wanted to take this test on his own but it was nice to know that he would have a second option. It was nice to know that Angeal believed in him when he said it wasn't intentionally that he fails his tests.

The raven haired boy's eyes slide closed of their own accord and behind his eye lids he can see home. The dark blue ocean just off the shores of Gongaga, the waves constantly splashing against the sand and rocks. Washing over the sand, smoothing it down, before pulling back deeper into the sea, deeper into itself. And then it would return to continue the process. It was always peaceful in Gongaga.

Until that day.

The scream in his ear, drawing closer and closer to him. The hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He turns slowly, feeling like ice is pumping through his veins. His heart is pounding so loud in his ears that for a moment, he freezes up. Footsteps slap against the floor drawing closer and closer and closer until it's against his back and the scream so loud in his ear.

"Zack."

The boy jerks awake from his half doze, looking around in a panic. His heart racing even faster now than in the memory until he gets his bearings. Eyes flying around the room, trying to pick out anything familiar.

He's not in Gongaga. He's in Midgar. He's not out in the open streets. He can't smell the salt in the air. He can't hear the crash of the ocean against the sand and he certainly can't feel the approaching feeling of fear crawl up his spine. No, he's in Midgar. In Angeal's apartment with Angeal and his two friends. On the Shinra property. He's safe. No one can hurt him now.

Zack relaxes, heart rate slowly lowering. "Holy crap, you scared me, Angeal."

Angeal rests his hand on Zack's shoulder. "Having a nightmare?"

Zack runs his hands up and down his thighs, wiping off the sweat that has accumulated on his palms. He desperately blinks the memory away, forcing it to the back of his mind, burying it under neath everything else he could possibly think of. He compresses it into a small, minute box and shoves it into the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind and hopes that it stays there forever.

"Kinda," Zack says softly. He can't look Angeal in the eye for fear that the older man would somehow be able to read his mind and see what he's been desperately trying to hide. "I think I need to hit the hay. My test is tomorrow." Zack smiles thinly up at the older man.

Angeal nods in understanding. "Yeah, get some sleep, Zack. Good luck tomorrow. I'll see you in the morning."

Zack's smile turns a little more genuine. He nods, standing up. "I will." He walks over to the door and shoves his shoes on. He pauses, reaching for the door handle to turn around and look at his superiors. He does a quick salute. "Thank you, sirs. I hope my awkwardness won't stop us from being friends. Have a good night, everyone." He waves his hand around strangely, hoping it looks natural. He clears his throat, turning, and heads out the door.

"Good luck, Zack," Genesis calls, airily.

"Thank you!" Zack calls back, before the door shuts behind him.

The entire rest of the night is dedicated to dreamless, restless sleep. He tossed and turned and then stared blankly in the darkness, quietly whispering the seconds that passed by. He was anxious and nervous for this test. He wanted to do well, he really did, but the sinking pit in his stomach gave him the very painful impression that he probably won't get what he wants.

But he'll try. No matter what. Even if it seems hopeless, Zack will always at least try.

Just as has become routine, Angeal follows Zack around durning conditioning. Being around the First, Zack has begun to notice that his peers and friends both give them wide berth. It's a little unnerving but at the same time cool. It's like he's some kind of person of importance. It's flattering. Even though they are mostly keeping away from Angeal, it still gives Zack the illusion that he's important. But Angeal doesn't seem to notice as he continues on. Well, considering that this probably happens a lot, Zack can bet it doesn't get to him. The two of them talk about a lot of things, one of which being the previous night and Zack wondering if he made a good impression.

"As I said before, Genesis seems to like you already for some reason. Sephiroth seems to be intrigued. Which is good," Angeal says. "Don't worry, pup, you are very difficult to not like. Don't stress yourself over something so trivial."

Zack nods, counting slightly under his breath as he does curl-ups. He pauses momentarily. "Okay. Sorry. I'm just a little nervous." And then he continues working, abs burning with the repetition.

It feels a little strange but Genesis and Sephiroth's opinion of him means a lot. Yes, a part of it is because they are both his commanding officers and this could do some wonderful things for his career to be on their good side, but mostly it's because the two of them are Angeal's friends. And being friends with Angeal's friends too can only make their own friendship stronger, right?

To Zack, it doesn't really matter who they are other than the fact that they are Angeal's friends. Even if being friends with them can help him in the long shot, it doesn't matter. Zack knows he's going to make it to SOLDIER First Class and he knows he's going to become the biggest hero in the world. He'll get there with his own strength. He doesn't mind helpful words and advice and training from the others, but he's doing this for himself. He will become a hero, but he won't sacrifice the opportunities to make friends along the way.

What is the point of giving his all to achieving his goal and having no one to celebrate with when he finally manages to make it? How very lonely, that would be.

"You'll do fine today," Angeal says, pulling Zack back to the present. "Just remember what I told you. If you feel yourself panicking-"

"I know, I got it, Angeal." Zack waves his hand around dismissively. He grins up at his mentor. "We studied extra hard for this one. I think because it was my first test here, I might have just freaked myself out a bit. This time will be different," Zack says, lowering down again to do another curl-up. And then, under his breath, "Hopefully" just kind of slipped out without him really meaning for it to. He did sound more confident than he felt.

A quick meek glance up at the older man showed that Angeal had heard him but didn't make any outward reaction to it. He just stared down at Zack, as if lost in thought about something. Zack pauses in his work out to look up at his mentor, wondering if it was wise to try and pull him from his thoughts. Deciding against it, Zack continued to do his work out, Angeal following him around mutely. For the most part he didn't say much else, just watching Zack and being lost in his own thoughts.

Zack had to wonder if what he said was anything important enough to prompt this deep of thought and consideration. So much so that Angeal stopped talking for the most part afterward because he was thinking about whatever it was that now engrossed him. Was it something that Zack said, or had something simply occurred to him that enraptured him so?

Zack didn't know, but didn't want to force him out of it for his own sake. If Angeal wanted a few minutes to really think to himself, Zack could at least give him that much.

After lunch he goes with Angeal and practices hand-to-hand and immediately follows by his swordplay class, which Zack is still using a wooden sword. Angeal takes him into slightly more advanced steps to increase his swordsmen skills. Zack is good at hand-to-hand stuff. But, he's small. A lot smaller than most of the other cadets, because he's the youngest. Although there is something that Zack has that most of the other's have yet to really exhibit.

Zack is fast. Like, very fast. Not enough to match the speed of a First, or even hold a flicker of a flame against that sun, but still something that will only get better as he ages and as he gets mako into his body. Thankfully, Zack has yet to develop a complex about being smaller than everyone else in terms of physical bulk, but he has seen the change in his body. He's getting a lot stronger, denser muscles around his arms, legs, and stomach.

And not just that, but Zack is showing a knack for sword fighting too.

Zack's next class is his Midgar History. And... Zack's test didn't go the way he would like. Maybe his negativity is the reason behind everything working out the way that it did for the test.

Almost an hour into the test, Zack was pulled from his erratic thoughts by his Instructor. He blinks rapidly, feeling his instructor shake his shoulder sharply. Zack's entire body is trembling, and quickly glancing around, he can see all his classmates staring at him. He looks back up at his teacher quizzically.

"W-What's up, teach?" Zack asks, his voice a little shaky. He can feel his muscles all over his body rippling and exhausted.

"Zack, maybe you need to step out for a moment to go to the infirmary on the fifth floor in the tower. I'll call your mentor," his Instructor says slowly, eyes flashing down to something on the desk and then back to Zack's eyes.

Zack tilts his head to the side, slightly. "U-Uh... why?"

Someone touches Zack's other shoulder. The raven haired boy looks over to see Kunsel. "Dude, you should go to the infirmary. You're bleeding..." his eyes flicker down to something on the desk and Zack's eyes lower too and his face pales at what he sees. In his erratic mental dilemma, he began to scratch the desk so frantically at the wood on the face of it that he managed to rub his fingers raw and broke all of the nails on eight of his ten fingers. All but his two thumbs. His nails are cracked and broken and bleeding. Now that Zack is staring at them, he can feel the stinging and burning and smell the stink of blood.

His fingernails are all broken, cracked in half and bleeding all around the bits that remain. There is even a smeared mess of blood on the desk on both sides of the paper. A splotch of red in the bottom right corner of the paper. Now that Zack is staring, he can feel the burn and it intensifies when he curls his hands into fists and his wounds are touched by the salt of his skin.

He chews on his bottom lip, nodding slowly to himself as he stands. "I, uh, guess... I should... uhh..." he nods again and then turns toward the door, his muscles aching. His knees are shaking. Zack is ashamed. He is much more ashamed this time than he was the first time. He tried so hard to convince Angeal that he would be dine, but he wasn't. He failed. Again.

"Good," his instructor nods slightly.

Zack turns and walks toward the door, slowly, afraid his knees will give out beneath him. He can hear people whispering softly behind his back, he can even feel the looks they are giving each other about him. Zack doesn't know if his face is red because of embarrassment at his actions or if he's embarrassed about having to facing Angeal after telling him that he would be able to handle it. Angeal is going to be so disappointed in him.

But he was distracted again by - what? What was he thinking about this time? Something about... people... people who were looking for someone? No, something? Someone? Was it that cult thing? The one that Genesis was telling him about last night? The people who worship the Goddess's Champion? Or was it that they were just looking for him or her? Zack can't remember now. He can't remember his weirdo thought process, like the first time, it was erratic, unfocused. Chaotic. And it messed him up.

With his hands still in fists, he holds them under his arms, ignoring the tinge of pain in his fingers. People barely give him a second glance as he walked by. When he got into the elevator he punched the fifth floor, so not to put pressure on any individual finger to press the button. When he got into the infirmary there was a single doctor and one other patient.

Zack stops in the doorway, blinking. "Chase. Hey man..."

The black haired, light brown eyed boy looks up quizzically at the sound of his name and smiles lightly when he sees Zack. He's holding a bag of ice to his left temple and he sits up a little straighter at the edge of one of the many rows of sterile white beds. Zack walks over and sits on the bed next to him.

"I'll be with you in a second," a balding doctor says over his shoulder to Zack, hunched over some paperwork on a large desk in the corner of the room. Surrounded by filing cabnets, probably filled to the brim with each of the old and new SOLDIERs that come into the program. Well, Zack isn't a SOLDIER but he will be soon. In just a few short months. He'll work his ass off to become a Third and then rise up the ranks from there. He can't give up hope. He can't. It's all he has at this point.

"Okay, doc," Zack says to the white back of the older man's jacket, before deviating his attention back to his friend. "What happened to you, Chase?" he asks, looking at the timid boy.

He smiles faintly. "I wasn't paying attention in hand-to-hand and got a swift kick to the side of the head and blacked out for like two minutes. Now I'm here." His brown eyes scan the raven haired boy and widen at the sight of his hands. "Zack! Your-"

"I know," Zack cuts him off. "That's why I'm here." He smiles faintly.

Chase opens his mouth, probably about to tell him what he already knows but closes his mouth again. He takes a few moments to collect his thoughts before finally asking, "What happened?" His voice is soft and he looks like he wants to reach out and touch the younger boy's hands but stops himself. Instead his single hand in his lap tightens into a fist. Zack hears the ice pack crinkle under the other fist.

Zack looks down at his white knuckled hands in his lap, noting the blood trickling through and leaving a few red drops on his military pants, fading into the fabric. Zack doesn't pull his hands from their tight fists for fear that the pressure he's putting on his fingers is the only thing that is keeping his nails on. And the thought alone scares him.

Zack has always been irrational during testing times. His thoughts become erratic and his body loses... everything. His body tingles and shakes and twitches on its own. It's like he loses control of everything. He can't think straight or control his movements.

"Zack?"

Blinking slowly, the raven haired boy turns to look at the burnet next to him. "Hm?"

Chase stares at him, looking slightly concerned. "I asked, what happened?"

Trying to shrug it off as nothing, the younger boy says, "It's just test stuff." It comes out nonchalant even to Zack.

But the look that Chase gives him can only be interpreted as, "It's more that that, I know it." And the younger of the two sighs. It's at points like this that he wished people weren't so observant. Even though he said before that he was a very open person and he shared a lot, he only shared what didn't really matter. He shared what he thought could be joked about or used to connect with people but this is delving into territory that he doesn't want to enter into.

"I have a problem with taking tests," Zack admits, his elbows prop onto his knees and his head falls between his shoulders. "I freak out and sometimes this happens." He shakes his hand. "Well, maybe not like this. I think this is... this is the first time that I've actually seriously hurt myself."

Chase gestures to Zack with his free hand. "Like this? What did you do?"

Zack stares down at his fists dangling between his legs, turning his wrists over to see his reddening palms. He's probably not bleeding anymore but his hands still hurt. More specifically, his fingers but he doesn't want to dwell on it. He's trapped in this swirling maelstrom of shame and embarrassment by this situation. If he could, he'd mentally crawl into a hole and live there until his body has achieved the rank of Hero.

"Nothing really," he sighs. "I just scratch myself sometimes. That's about it. I've never really hurt myself."

"Alright," the doctor, an older man with graying hair, sits down on a rolling chair in front of Zack. "Hands, right?" Zack nods mutely. He takes the young man's hands and tentatively pries them open. He quickly goes to work on wiping away the blood on Zack's fingers and palms and taking especially gentle care around the younger man's finger tips. Zack braves looking down at his digits and cringing, inwardly and then outwardly immediately following.

Most of all of his nails are intact but are cracked and just a few scratches away from pulling the nails off completely. Zack has to look away, cringing again when the old man touches a particularly tender cuticle and almost jerking his hand away. Thankfully, the doc keeps a good grip on the flailing appendage. He gives Zack a blank look and a swift, "Hold still, please," before returning to his work.

Zack hisses through his teeth the doc dabs the wounds with disinfectant. The man holds tighter to Zack's hand, anticipating him trying to yank it back again to avoid the pain. The young man squeezes his eyes shut and tries to ignore the burn and focus on something else. Like Chase's slow even breaths next to him. In, out. In, out. The repetition is soothing and calms his frazzled nerves.

"You okay, Zack?" Chase asks softly. His big brown eyes are wide and innocent like nothing evil in the world can penetrate those twin orbs.

Zack nods, cracking open an eye to look at Chase and forcing a tight smile. "I'm okay. It just kinda hurts like a sonovabitch." He meant it to be a joke, but the doctor must have thought he was complaining.

"It will be over soon," the doctor says blankly. He sounds like he hasn't truly enjoyed his job in many of years. Zack feels bad for him. It's got to really suck doing a job you don't even like for the rest of your life.

After the doc is finished wrapping up Zack's fingers with medical tape, he pushes the chair away and stands up. "Alright, that should be it. I'll get you some low-grade pain relievers. Ibuprofen or Aleve. Any preference?" Zack shakes his head, mutely. He's had both in his life. A rowdy boy like him didn't get rough-skinned on its own. He had to be hurt first.

It's like a sixth sense, being able to tell that Angeal was right outside the door. With his chin to his chest, Zack's light blue eyes look through thick lashes at the door just moments before it opens and Angeal's bulky form is revealed. Angeal's face is completely impassive. His posture is strong and sure. He walks into the room with the safe confidence and purpose that seems to come naturally to him.

The flutter of paper brings the young boys attention to the white sheet pinched between the thumb and pointer finger of his right hand. As Angeal heads right for Zack, all the boy can do is lower his gaze to the older man's boots. Standard military, combat boots. They look only slightly warn in. But very comfortable. Sleek, black and all terrain.

"Zack."

Normally, Zack would look up into Angeal's eyes. Not as a challenge. It's never been a challenge. But out of respect. But Zack couldn't do that this time. His head lifted up a fraction of an inch before falling back to his chest. Shame coloring his face. It shouldn't have to be like this. Zack shouldn't be bested by some goddess damned piece of paper and words. Words that usually form a question followed by "Explain". It shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't be physically impossible.

"Hey Angeal," Zack mumbles after what feels like forever in a deafening silence. It was probably only a few seconds though.

Zack can feel Angeal's eyes burrowing through the top of his skull. Like pinpoint lazer and all Zack can do is shrink beneath his penetrating gaze, both physically and mentally. Zack can't face Angeal, if the older man could see into his eyes, he might see the weakness, the vulnerability. And that isn't Zack. He isn't weak. Nor is he vulnerable. Sometimes he'll act that way but in all reality, he's not.

"Is he alright now, doc?" Angeal asks, not taking his eye off the shrinking boy.

Scribbling down something on Zack's file, he nods. "Yep. He needs to be careful with those fingers for the next couple days. I'd say two or three. They'll be sore for a while but the nails will grow back and the damage will heal. Mild pain medication will be fine." He turns around for the first time and lays down a bottle of Ibuprofen before turning back around.

Zack can't look at Angeal, but he can stare blandly at the doctor's broad back. "Do you need to know what happened to me?"

"Not really." The doctor shrugs, not even looking at him. Zack looks down at his bandaged hands with raised eyebrows. Back home everyone always wanted to know what happened to him. Zack has to figure that this guy gets a whole bunch of people in here during the day that he probably doesn't really give a shit. Which kinda sucks but if that's the way things are, than there is nothing that Zack can do about it.

He can't make the man give a shit about his job.

"You ready to go?" Angeal asks.

"Yeah," Zack says softly, considering climbing to his feet. Thinking about it and mustering the will for it is a lot harder than he expected. But he manages somehow and pulls himself up. Following behind Angeal like a lost, kicked puppy, he glances back at Chase, who had been silent through the entire exchange, to give him a little wave goodbye. "I'll see you soon, buddy."

Chase nods slowly, face unreadable. "You too."

The walk to Angeal's apartment is a slow and silent one. Zack walked with his head bent then entire time. He and Angeal worked so hard to make sure that Zack was ready for this test and he still blew it. It's not right. What if Angeal decides that Zack really is too much trouble? The shame Zack felt earlier returns, coiling in his hut like an angry snake, but this time it's stronger, preparing to strike.

That feeling stays with the small boy all the way to Angeal's apartment and when they both settle on the couch. There is a long winded silence. Neither saying or doing anything. Angeal leans forward and puts the paper onto the coffee table, before siting back into the plush leather.

Zack twiddles his thumbs on his lap, waiting for Angeal to say something, anything! But he remains silent. Zack can't help but wonder if Angeal is waiting for Zack to say something. If that's the case, this could take a while.

The young blue eyed boy can't even look at him in the corner of his eye before another fresh wave of shame washes over him. So, instead of looking at him, he just closes his eyes again and focuses on the other man's light breathing. It's so calming and relaxing that Zack begins to feel himself slip into slumber. It's only the sound of Angeal shifting slightly that forces Zack to open his eyes.

"Are..." Zack finally says softly, blinking the tiredness from his eyes. Bracing himself for the answer he's not so sure he wants to hear, he asks, "Are you mad at me?"

"No," Angeal says simply. His voice is level and calm. That somehow didn't make him feel any better.

Zack looks over at him from the corner of his eyes, still unable to look at him head on. "Do you want to talk about it?" He heard Angeal, but he couldn't help but think that his mentor was mad. Mostly at him.

Angeal turns to look at Zack with a neutral expression. Eyes honed in on Zack's face. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Finally, Zack looks over at the man head on. Searching his face for any sign of disappointment or shame. Anything to indicated that he's upset or angry at Zack in any way, shape or form, but he can't find it. Just honest neutrality. And maybe a bit of worry. Zack shakes his head, very slowly. "No..."

Angeal nods once, sharply. "Then no."

A small smile crosses his face before he can stop it. Zack leans over and bumps Angeal's shoulder with him. Unable to let the words be formed on his lips. They are happily stuck in his throat.

Thank you, Angeal.

"Okay," Angeal says, grabbing the piece of paper and looking down at it, "let's see how much of that studying you retained, pup." He smiles lightly at his own words, seeing Zack's cute pout in the corner of his vision.

Thank you so much, Angeal.

"I'm gonna miss class," Zack says, unable to hide his amusement.

Angeal shrugs. "You will be able to make up for it."

Zack cracks one eye open to see that it's dark outside. That's the first thing he notices. The second thing is the blanket wrapped around his body and his shoes removed. The third thing he noticed is that he isn't in his barracks and he especially isn't in his bunk. It's much more comfortable than his bunk. Gazing around the dark room he realizes that it's a dark version of Angeal's apartment.

Yes. It's definitely Angeal's apartment. But this is the first time that Zack has been at Angeal's house when it's so dark. That means he missed curfew. That means he's going to be written up. Three informal warnings and he gets written up and that goes on his permanent record. That won't look good around promotion days. Zack must have fallen asleep. Why didn't Angeal wake him?

Sitting up slowly, groggy, his head pounding, the young man squints at clock on the microwave. It's almost one in the morning. If he was in his right mind, he would have gotten up and headed home, but instead he falls back onto the couch like a limp noodle, groaning softly when the impact with the pillow neatly placed under his head shakes his brain. And then he slips back into slumber.

He has had a long day.

The next time Zack wakes up, it's morning. Well, it's about five-thirty. Zack slowly climbs to his feet, stretching his aching body. His back, arms and legs are all stiff from laying in the same position all night. That and not laying on an actual bed. Not that his cot leaves him feeling any better in the morning, but still. Zack scratches the back of his head, messing up his already wild hair. He stretches again and yawns quietly to himself before tip toeing down the adjacent hall. Past the bathroom, two guest rooms to Angeal's at the end of the hall.

The door is open and Angeal is on his bed. Zack dare not get any closer for fear of waking up the First Class. Angeal lay on the left side of bed, his left arm thrown up over his eyes, while his right hand rests on his stomach. Rising and falling slightly with all of his light breaths. The fan is on overhead and he's in sweat pants and a wife beater, showing off toned, strong arms in the lightening room. Zack tiptoes back, not wanting to disturb the older man, to the couch. He folds the blanket up nicely, placing it back on the couch and straightening out the cushions.

He walks over to the peninsula. A small note pad and pen sit there. Zack pulls off the one that is already used: Let's have dinner again soon. -G. For a clean piece and writes down his own message: Thanks for letting me sleep over. Sorry about that. :P I'll make it up to you. See ya! Got to go training. -Z.

With that done, Zack goes over to the door and slips his shoes on. As quietly as possible, even if Angeal is now just faking about being asleep, he still wants to give the illusion that he's being considerate, he unlocks the door and leaves. Being mindful of softly shutting the door behind him and waiting for the automatic click for the lock to sound before heading down the hall toward the elevator.

Standing alone in the compact space, listening to the soft ding as he passes each floor, Zack leans against the back of the elevator and sighs. Word has probably already spread about Zack little mishap in class the day before. There isn't any way for Zack to just write that off as a mid-life crisis or something, is there? Perhaps a slight break of the psyche. That one would be easier to believe.

"Ready or not, world, Zack Fair is back and better than ever," he murmurs, then smiles. His own words actually making him feel a little better. He can do this. Just words and looks. Zack can deal with words and looks.

The elevator dinged for the final floor, opening the door to reveal the lobby. Empty aside from a single janitor moping up the floors. He has headphones in his ears but he spots Zack as the younger boy walks by and returns his wave with a little wave of the fingers of his own. Zack exits the lobby and heads for the barracks, knowing by the time he gets there, everyone will be awake and the real test will begin.

For lack of a better word.

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. To Midgar 5360 0 0 2. Pre-test fright 5267 0 0 3. Lied 4929 0 0 4. Smile 4742 0 0 5. Puppy 5559 0 0 6. Proposal 4881 0 0 7. The dinner 5046 0 0 8. Next Test 5715 0 0 9. Help with tests 5731 0 0 10. Victoria Fair 4671 0 0 11. Want to see 4644 0 0 12. Going out 6491 0 0 13. Gifts 7694 0 0 14. First Mako enstallment 6175 0 0 15. Post first mako enstallment 5913 0 0 16. The Beautiful Girl 5085 0 0 17. Another Round 5916 0 0 18. Do something 3875 0 0 19. Method 4568 0 0 20. Study 4572 0 0 21. The Program 5415 0 0