The First Champion @wingedladycolette
Help with tests

Zack hates attention.

Well, no. Scratch that. He hates this kind of attention. He doesn't mind being stared at nor does he mind people talking about him. It's the looks he can't stand. Not general staring, that doesn't mean anything to him. But it's those weirded out looks. Like he's something strange to them. Not the good kind of strange. The bad kind. He doesn't mind looks of admiration, no, it's the weirded out looks.

Like Zack is some kind of freak of nature. And that's not something that Zack knows how to handle. d to talk himself up, really he did. He could handle looks and words. He could. But maybe because this has something to do with tests, and he's a bit sensitive to things like that, that makes him unable to just grit his teeth and bare it. He's not sure.

People watch as Zack walks through the barracks, head down. He can feel their eyes on him, hear their whispers. And it makes him grossly uncomfortable. He interlaces his fingers behind his back, hoping it will make him look less skittish than he's almost positive that he looks. Kunsel, pulling his shirt over his head, jumps up and walks up to greet Zack when he spots the younger Cadet moving closer.

"Hey, Zack, you didn't come back to class yesterday," Kunsel says, keeping his voice light and even. He glares at some of the other boys behind Zack's back, scaring them into looking away. He's a real friend.

Zack nods. "Yeah, I went to Angeal's apartment. I took the test there and drowned my sorrows in alcohol."

Kunsel pauses in his glowering at the other boys and turns his eyes back to the youngest of them, staring at Zack with a perplexed expression on his face. "Are you serious?"

Zack stares at him blandly. "As if. There is no way Angeal would ever condone giving a minor alcohol, let alone someone as young as myself and with such a pretty liver I have." He shakes his head, walking past his friend to his bunk, stripping down and changing into new clothes. Kunsel looks like he wants to ask about more but Zack rushes out of the room, cringing every time he felt another stare turn his way. Maybe he can't handle this.

"...freaked out during class yesterday..."

"...bloody hands..."

"...can't make it..."

"...not built for SOLDIER..."

"...probably won't make it..."

"...disgrace..."

"...pathetic..."

Zack throws his hands over his ears and squeezes his eyes shut. They're not right. They aren't. Zack can do this. This entire situation is just a tiny blip on his long and successful career as SOLDIER. He's just got to get over this. He can. He can do this. Just not now. And Zack runs out of the room, Kunsel calls after him, but Zack doesn't stop. He's sprinting before he even hits the field.

Zack throws himself down on the center of the training mat, staring at the bright lights hanging from the ceiling. Why did this have to happen to Zack? He's tried to spend his entire life being good and nice to others. Damn. He was probably an asshole in his previous life. Damn him. Damn past him. Or perhaps the memories from the Lifestream that make him up were those of assholes, either way, it's probably karma.

All Zack has to do is deal with the looks, relax, and this will blow over in a week. Yes, that's right. It will. He'll be fine. Just man up, go out there and face those other boys. Zack isn't afraid of heights, dying, spiders. He's practically deathly afraid of gummy worms, but that is completely out of his control. Er, well, Zack has to assume that every irrational fear is, but Zack wasn't born afraid, he was made that by human involvement. Zack closes his eyes, throwing both of his arms over his head and letting out a long winded sigh.

The door whispers open and footsteps walk in.

"I figured I'd find you here," Chase says, walking over to him and sitting by Zack's side, looking down at the younger boy. "How are you...?"

"I'm cool. What about you?" Zack asks, squinting one eye open. He takes in the darkening mark on the side of Chase's head from the hit the day before. "You're head doing better?"

Chase shrugs. "I have a headache and I have to take it easy, but I'm fine. How about your hands?"

Zack raises his left hand in front of his face and stares at the bandages wrapped securely around them and wiggles each individual digit. He closes his hand into a tight fist, feeling mild irritation but nothing that can't be bared with. "I'm okay. They don't really hurt anymore." The hand falls to his chest and he closes his eyes again. "I'm a little mad at myself for not being able to deal with my issue on my own."

"Zack, there is no shame in getting help," Chase says sagely.

The youngest cadet grins. "Thanks ma."

"I'm serious!" Chase says a little indignant. Zack opens his eyes to peak at the other boy to see if he's actually upset. He's not. "I..." Chase sighs, looking down at Zack. "My parents died about five years ago."

The abrupt admission makes Zack shoot up and stare at Chase's sad face. He tries to picture not being able to go home any time he wants and see his pa working out in the field and his ma dancing around in the kitchen, humming beneath her breath. Grinning at him when he walks into the room and baking him all his favorite foods. He can't image them no longer being there.

"Dude... I'm sorry. How...?" Zack waves a hand around ambiguously, not at all sure how to go about furthering this conversation.

Chase shakes his head, like it didn't matter. "I thought I had to do everything myself. I even tried it for about a year, before my dad's parents found me and brought me to live with them. Even then I tried to be self reliant, but my grandfather sat me down and told me the same thing I told you. He told me that it was okay to need help, to need to rely on others. But he also said that while it's never wrong to look to others for aid, never forget your own inner strength. Never forget that the Goddess may have given all of us the ability to be strong, but we are the ones that decide on how to use such strength."

Zack nods slowly, considering. "I like that. Never forget your own inner strength." A smile crosses his face. "Thanks, Chase, I feel a whole lot better." He reaches out and affectionately pats Chase on the back. "I'd like to meet this wise guy some day."

Chase laughs lightly, shaking his head. He tilts his head down nervously and smiles shyly. "I'm sure he'd like to meet you, Zack." After a few moments of silence, he finally climbs to his feet. "So, are you ready to go face the music?"

Zack groans and throws himself back on the mat, rolling onto his stomach yelling into the mat. "I don't want to."

"Come on, Zack," Chase says, tapping Zack's side with the toe of his boot. "Come on."

"No!"

"It's not that bad. They're just judgmental teenagers all vying for the same thing and willing to do anything to destroy the competition," Chase says.

Zack twists his neck around to squint up at the slightly darker skinned boy. "What the...? Was that suppose to make me feel better?"

Chase laughs. "I'm kidding. Come on, Zack."

"Hell no, not after hearing that!"

Chase leans down and rolls Zack back over onto his back and pulls the smaller boy to his feet. The proceeds to drag him to the door. "Come on, it's not going to be that bad. Just..."

Noticing the pause, Zack supplies, "Ignore them?"

Chase shrugs, putting his hands on Zack's shoulders and pushes him onward from behind. "Sure. I was going to say stand up to them, but ignoring them works good too."

Zack smiles, letting Chase lead him to the door. He watches the usually quiet young man burst out of his shell, showing Zack an entirely different side to him. "I think I like this part of you, Chase. Why are you so shy around everyone else?"

Zack doesn't miss Chase stumbling slightly and the look of hesitation that crosses his face. He turns away to hide his face from Zack's view and shrugs his shoulders a little. "I don't know, Zack. I'm just... I'm not comfortable with many people. I like you, though. You're friendly to everyone and not judgmental of anything, really." As if an after thought he adds, "More open than most."

The raven haired boy grins a little, happy that someone feels like they can trust him. "That's me, Mr. Nonjudgmental. Seriously though, I have so much to be ashamed of in my life, it'll do me no good to start flinging mud," he jokes. He can't see it, but Zack can bet that the other boy is probably smiling that light, shy smile that he seems to always have.

The two of them head to the cafeteria. Zack feels like shrinking beneath the gazes of his peers but about halfway through the cafeteria Zack remembers Chase's words and swallows his fear and tilts his head up high. He forces a smile and as he gets closer to his usual table his smile gets easier to hold. His steps get more confident. His chin rises high and he doesn't let the stares get to him. They seep under his skin a bit but he burns it away with his smile. Chase is right. Ignoring them or standing up to them, it doesn't matter. Eventually they will stop.

As unfortunate as it is, Zack isn't all that important. Eventually, he will stop being the center of attention. At least the center of this kind of attention. One day they will all stop and it won't matter anymore. One day, Zack is going to be a big goddess-damned hero and no one will ever remember this and even if they do, it will be something that Zack and all of his friends can laugh at.

It wont be so horrible then.

Kunsel is a goddess-sent. As soon as Zack lowered himself to the nearest seat, Kunsel stuffs his hand into his pocket and pulls out something that Zack didn't expect. "Is that a chocobo pen?"

Kunsel grins. He lays it down in front of Zack before going back to his breakfast as if he totally didn't just make his best friend's day. Zack reaches out and takes the pen into his hand and admires it for a moment. It's not like his old one, but it's still nice. Pristine. New. And not in a million pieces at the bottom of his bag. Sure, it doesn't have the same history as his last one but that's what change is all about.

Make new memories.

"Thanks, man," Zack says, putting it into his bag and grinning at his friend. Zack goes and gets food and snarfs it down so fast, he barely breathed at all. His friends, all being the amazing people that they are, talked like they knew nothing about what happened with Zack the day before and he could serious go around kissing all of them if they kept being so amazing.

Once breakfast is over, they all head to class. Angeal is there when Zack showed up. He's busy talking with Kalegrin. Angeal's got his hands crossed over his chest and he's standing with his legs shoulder length apart. He's got a frown on his face as he talks while Kalegrin just stands there, nodding solemnly without saying much. His helmet over his face covers up any sort of shift in his expression if there is one.

"What do you think they're talking about?" Zack asks, leaning in close to Kunsel.

Kunsel leans in to Zack too. His eyes are also on the two SOLDIERs whispering together. He tilts his head back in forth, like the image would somehow magically change and reveal the truth as to what they are talking about. He looks over at Zack and shrugs. "I don't know. Probably about how you can't use your hands today because of your nails. But that's only if I had to guess."

Zack trills, scratching the back of his head, which was hard to do with aforementioned bandages still wrapped around the tip of his fingers. "That's bull. They don't even hurt anymore." Kunsel rolls his eyes and leans over, grabbing Zack's left hand and squeezing his fingers tightly. Zack yelps loudly and pulls his hand away, cradling his hurt hand kindly. "What are you some kind of animal?" Zack yells dramatically. He smiles a little when he heard the light snickers of his fellow cadets when his baby yelp pulled their attention over to them.

Zack backs up slowly, mind whirling. This is Zack, though. This is how he does things. He makes jokes and has fun. He is friendly and self-assured. All this moping and self-doubt isn't what Zack is about at all. The dark haired boy is glowing under the attention. Because Zack likes this kind of attention. The positive attention - well, doesn't everyone, he supposes - but this is what he likes. This is what he can handle.

"What kind of uncultured shit does things like that?" Zack says as exaggerated as he can. He's not going to be weak. He's not going to wallow in self-doubt. This is just a blip on the radar for him. This will all one day be a long forgotten memory.

Kunsel laughs, crossing his arms over his chest. He shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Zack, I was just testing your theory. You said that you weren't in pain anymore. You know, you're a real shitty friend for lying to me."

Zack's eyes widen. "What? No, are you kidding? No, I was only doing that to impress you. Show you my fortitude. I never meant to desieve you! It was all... it was all," Zack looks around quickly. He points. "It was all Gabe's fault!"

"Ah, hell no!" Gabe says joking, holding his hands up in mock surrender.

Kunsel turns his gaze to Gabe, looking shocked and hurt. "Are you...? You son of a bitch, after everything we've been through? Think of our children, our boys; Chase and James."

The two "children" in question look at one another in confusion. They take in James's sandy blond hair and light skin to Chase's black hair and darker skin. The two of them weren't exactly polar opposites, but they weren't too closely similar either. It just makes it kind of funny is all.

Gabe shakes his head, grinning amused at his best friend, who grins back. "You both, Zack, Kunsel, you are both assholes." Kunsel snickers back at him while Zack waggles his wounded fingers before dropping them. He turns slightly to see a group of boys staring at him and on impulse, he smiles.

"Hi, how are you?"

The boy nearest to him has the decency to look a little bashful at being caught staring. He runs his hand through dark hair. "I'm... uh, I'm good. How about you?"

Zack smiles friendly, feeling a weight lift off his chest. "Awesome. I'm good today, too."

"Zack," The raven haired boy turns to see his mentor standing a few feet away, with Kalegrin. "Are you ready to go?"

The near fifteen year old opens his mouth to ask where they were going to go, but didn't want to cut any more in Kalegrin's time then he already has. That, and a little bit of it is that the rest of Zack's class is staring at Angeal in awe and Zack's part of that. It's like Angeal has a blanket of influence and Zack is cuddling up right near the center, right where Angeal is. Because, at least for now, Angeal's sole attention is on Zack. And who wouldn't want that?

"Yeah," Zack says, he pats Kunsel's back in thanks. "Let's go." He follows Angeal to the door and waves back to his friends. "See ya, guys!"

He hears some calls back but doesn't really register hem, he's looking over at Angeal in the corner of his eye, wondering what they were talking about. It really had to of been about him and his ability to use his hands for the next few days. He follows Angeal down the hall quietly, though. They walk with only the sound of their footsteps against the dark floor to fill the space between them for a few minutes before Zack, being uncomfortable with the silence, asks, "Where are we going?"

"You followed me not knowing where we were going?" Angeal says with mirth. "Won't your mother be upset to hear that?"

Zack trills, rolling his eyes. "No way. My ma always said a honest faced stranger is just a friend you never met yet."

Angeal looks over at him, small smile still on his face. "And if it was just a creep with a good poker face?"

The younger boy grins. "Well, my ma also said it was smart to offer one hand in friendship and arm the other one just to be sure." His smile widens when he hears Angeal chuckle at that. He looks over at his mentor.

"Your mother is a very smart woman," Angeal says, eyes distant, probably thinking about his own mother.

Zack glows. "I know. My ma was born in the big city. She was really smart as a young girl and then she met my pa and forsaken the bright future she had to be a stay at home wife. She never regretted it." Zack's eyes soften. In his mind's eye, he can see the beautiful, yet possibly over-sharing, woman who brought him into the world.

That day, Zack's brain whirls. His ma, the only person in the world that knew Zack inside and out, held him in her arms as she rocked back and forth. Zack lay with his head on her chest, listening to the sound of her crying quietly, muffling the noise as much as she could. Zack's dad wasn't home. He was joining in with the rest of the town, getting to know more about the goings on in the outside world. He didn't know. He never suspected.

Victoria Fair smoothed her son's hair away and kissed the top of his head, muttering nonsense that neither of them heard. This wasn't a moment for words but Zack's ma knew nothing else to do. All she could try to do was fill the silence with words - even if Zack couldn't hear them - and hope that they drew her son out of the dark place he was drowning in. Zack stares at the wall across from them with a vacant stare. His mind racing and, at the same time, not moving at all. Victoria holds her baby to her closer, not knowing what else to do.

She folds over him, weeping. She can't stop, the noise is horrible sounding, even to herself. She hasn't cried since Zack was young and fell off the roof. She witnessed it and a part of her died inside as he child fell. He ended up being okay, save for a broken foot, but that didn't stop the cold chill from seeping into her body and taking it over.

Something touches her cheek, wiping away at the trail of tears. She looks down into blue eyes so much like her own.

"Everything will be okay now, ma," Zack murmurs under his breath.

"What?" Angeal says, looking down at the young raven haired boy. He blushes, scratching the back of his head. He was so deep into his own mind, he hadn't realized he spoke out loud.

"Uh, sorry, Angeal, I was just thinking back to something that happened with my ma. She was real upset and I don't know... I'd never really seen her like that. The words; everything will be okay now, ma, just slipped out of me and..." Zack shrugs. "I was right. I joined Shinra not long afterward."

Angeal is quiet for a long moment, his eyes are darkened and far away. He appears to be struggling with something internally. Zack can see his bare arms flexing slightly like he might have to physically restrain himself from something, but then he relaxes and his shoulders tilt inward. Almost as a tangible sign of defeat. Zack's interest quirks.

"Can I ask you something personal, Zack?"

The younger boy shrugs. "Sure. I'm an open book."

Angeal stops, causing Zack stop almost immediately afterward. The two turn towards each other, staring into each other's eyes. Zack tilts his head curiously. Why does Angeal look a little nervous? Certainly it can't be this personal question he's got? Zack's not going to hate him for asking a question. Unless, it's the answer that he's afraid of. Zack feels a small tug down on the corner of his lips.

"What do you want to ask me?" Zack asks quietly, his eyebrows pulling together slightly. He's standing only a foot away from Angeal. He's able to look up into his mentor's eyes and see the mako moving, ever so slowly.

Angeal sighs, looking like he might reconsider and retract his possible inquiry but then he nods to assure himself. "Zack, you don't have to answer if you don't want to. I just," he hesitates for a moment before straightening up. "I just have to ask, even though I told you I wouldn't." Zack nods slowly for him to continue. "Zack, what happened leading up to you joining the company?"

Zack's eyes gloss over. His mind travels back to that time, the warmth of his mother's arms wrapped so tightly around him. She's crying so hard, trying to pull herself and him together with her tears. Like can become a rope that keeps them each in one piece. Her screams of fear and anguish. The pain all over his body. And his eyes - those, cold evil eyes! - and the sound of bones snapping as skin connects with skin.

"I..." Zack's mouth feels like it's full of cotton. His eyes are glazed, staring at something beyond Angeal. His mouth is moving but it's hard to pull his mind back from that moment in time. Well, it wasn't a singular moment. It was a mosh posh of seconds that were all around the same time but blended together in his mind. His body was aching so bad, everything hurt, but he could express it. He was stuck within his own body. Like it was a prison. A prison of bruises, lacerations and salt to pour over them when they're done.

Zack swallows thickly. "There... was a recruiter in town..."

"I know that, Zack," Angeal says softly. "But how did you get those bruises? I understand you got into a fight, but with whom?"

Zack blinks slowly, his mind still far away. He opens his mouth but he closes it again. He shakes himself really hard, trying to pull himself back into his body. He wraps his arms together around his torso. He takes a few deep breaths to calm down his pounding heart. "I'm not sure, Angeal. I... I didn't catch his name in the middle of our brawling." He laughs thinly, the noise sounding hoarse and painful even to Zack's ears. He cringes at the sound.

Angeal stares at him with mixed expression on his face. He presses his lips into a tight line and tries to decide whether he wants to push it or not. He crosses his arms over his chest and opens his posture into a very powerful stance. "Zack, am I wrong in believing that you are purposely leaving things out?"

Zack stares at him through his eyelashes. His face twisted into worry and sadness. "I am," he admits, "but that's not because I don't want to tell you. Well, I mean, that's part of it, but it's mostly because I don't really know. I know the beginning. I know the end. The middle is just a little merky. It's like I was there, but I wasn't. My body was moving but I wasn't really home. I don't know what to say."

The older man reaches out, like he's going to pet him on the head or maybe pat him on the shoulder, but he drops his hand back to his side, seemingly to have decided better. He rubs his hand over his face. "Zack, that's fine. It's okay for you to be lost in the heat of the moment. I'm assuming it was your first time in a fight?" Zack nods somberly. "See? Everyone is different, but it isn't uncommon for someone who's not used to things like that to black out through most of it."

Zack reaches up and grabs his shoulder, tugging on it. "But Angeal, I'm not like that. I'm not the type of person that goes around settling all of my disputes with my fists. I'm not that type of person. My entire goal in life is to become a hero. Heros don't go around beating down low lives just because they hurt someone precious to them," Zack makes a choking sound. He shakes his head, clearing the image of blood away. "Maybe they do. But they are known for the good that they do. Not for the people they hurt."

Zack roughly presses the heels of his palms into his eyes for a moment, deepening his breathing and slowing down his rapidly beating heart. His wounded fingers twitch lightly. "I'm not an angry person, Angeal," he says softly.

Angeal nods, his words coming out quietly. "I know. I'd like to think I've got a good sense for people."

"I think, aside from having a greater chance at becoming a First, I think I was also a little relieved that someone like you would be able to stop me if something like that happened to me again. I don't want to end up doing something I'll end up regretting." Zack drops his hands and looks up into Angeal's mako enhances eyes with his light blue ones. "You'd stop me, right?"

Angeal lays his hand on Zack's shoulder this time. "If I have to, yes. I will stop you. But first, I'll teach you how to control yourself so you don't need me to."

Zack's smile is faint and tired. "You're the best, Angeal."

"And you, Zack," Angeal says softly, "have a very powerful sight of what is right and what is fair."

That smile on the younger boy's face broadens into a more natural looking one. "Is that a joke?"

Angeal smiles too, dropping his hand. "It wasn't meant to be, but if you think about it; it does kind of sound like it could be, doesn't it?" Zack nods, and like that, the moment's over. The two turn and keep walking down the hall as if the last few minutes didn't happen. The only residual essence of it, is the thickness in Angeal's mind as he tries to process what he's learned - and what he didn't - about Zack's arrival to Shinra and the way Zack smacks his cheeks to bring color back into them.

"What does that mean," Zack asks after a moment of silence, "what is right and what is fair?"

Angeal considers the question as they get onto the elevator. Once the door whispers shut, he says, "If whomever you spoke of truly wronged you in such a way, is it right that you beat him to a pulp? Or is it fair to rough him up enough so that he can no longer do whatever it is that he did?"

Zack didn't answer, and from the sagely way Angeal stared ahead, he probably wasn't expecting Zack to. Even though Angeal said that he believed Zack had such as strong-sight, was it?- for this... Zack wasn't so sure. He sorta understood what Angeal was saying but not all the way. Not enough to be able to explain it to someone else.

Angeal is always giving out such sagely advice, Zack has to wonder if Angeal is really wise through experience or because he is, as his mother would describe, an "old soul". Either way, Zack is thankful for the older man, regardless.

"What are we doing here?" Zack asks as they stop outside of Instructor Evans's classroom. He looks at Angeal with big eyes.

The older man nods for him to go inside. Zack hesitates for just a moment before obeying and reaching for the door handle, opening it slowly to show off of his academic teachers sitting around talking amongst themselves. Zack pauses just inside the room to stare at them. They quiet down to look at the two entering. Instructor Evans walks over to them when Zack doesn't move further into the room.

"We're glad you could make it, Zack, General," he says kindly, nodding respectfully to his superior. Angeal nods back, equally as respectful. The other teachers murmur welcome as well. Zack turns to look back at Angeal but he gestures for him to go to his teachers.

Zack looks at all of his teachers nervously. "Am I gonna get shanked? If I am, I want adequate time to curl up into a ball first." That earns him a few smiles and even a bit of a chuckle from some of them. Angeal even smiles faintly. "I'm sure you guys are fast but my twitch reflex is pretty impressive if I do say so myself."

A few more chuckles.

Instructor Evans smiles lightly. "No, Zack, we aren't going to shank you. We actually want to talk about your grades."

Opting for the comedic route, Zack rubs the back of his head, smiling widely. "I don't think there is enough time in the day to talk about that train wreck."

Angeal makes a displeased noise. "Be serious, Zack."

Zack wilts under the heavy gaze of his teachers and mentor. "Sorry."

"Zack," one of his other instructors says. "We want to talk to you about your issues with classes. You are very skilled physically and from what we understand from General Hewley just as sharp mentally."

The corners of Zack's mouth twitch upward. "Kalegrin would beg to differ, I'm sure."

Another teacher chuckles. "Your first day in conditioning is legendary, Zack." A few more chuckles. "But seriously, do you want to talk about your lack of test taking ability?"

Zack shrugs, disappointed not to be able to hide behind jokes anymore. "I've always had a touch time taking tests. I know the material its just when I get that piece of paper in front of me and the people around me start working, everything up here," he gestures to his head, "goes awry." He hesitates. "I'm not dumb. My teachers back home thought I was, but I'm not."

Evans looks back over at the other teachers for a moment, considering. "What is the three things that mako in gas form do that mako in liquid form can't?"

Zack looks around confused. Angeal gestures for him to answer. He looks back at his Instructor. "Um, well, mako in gas form can move through solid objects without eating the metal or whatever it's made from, it can dissipate into the air, and it can..." Zack rolls his eyes back and forth trying to recall. "It can... oh! Be absorbed into people, plants and animals without causing immediate mako poisoning."

Instructor Even nods, smiling. "Good Zack. And what do we use to harness mako?"

"How we harness it? Or how we have access to it?"

Evans considers for a moment. "Both."

"We use mako reactors to extract mako from the planet. But there is natural deposits of material all over the world. Solidified mako that was compressed by the planet's crust and pushed to the surface."

Evans seems pleased. He reaches out and pats Zack on the shoulder. "See? I knew you were listening. I think you have acute test anxiety. You work yourself up during the test and make it so much harder for yourself. You know the material, just can't focus on it."

Zack scratches the back of his head, squinting at his teachers. "So, um, what does that mean?"

"It means that we will be taking a different approach to how we deal with your testing," Angeal says. "I'm sure all of the teachers can agree that such a fine student should be able to continue so long as he focuses on his learning and tries his hardest. If you physically can't take these tests because of something beyond your control you shouldn't be refused the chance into SOLDIER."

All of the teachers murmur in agreement. Zack looks from them to Angeal. "So, I'm not getting kicked out?"

Angeal looks surprised. "No. No, you wouldn't be kicked out because of something like that." Zack lets out a long whoosh of breath. "So... here is what we are going to do, you will take your tests with me, even your finals, but you must get all A's on them to pass all the courses. You will do all of your physical tests with your classmates, do you understand?"

Zack nods. "So, A's on all my finals and I pass and can become a SOLDIER?"

"All A's and you can take the real final. These classes and these tests prepare you for the actual final. Your very first, undiluted mako injection." Angeal crosses his arms. "Think of all of this as boot camp leading up to basic training. It'll only get harder as you pass into the SOLDIER program and out of the Cadet program. Do you think you'll be able to do it?" Angeal asks, smiling kindly.

Angeal isn't surprised, even having only known Zack for a short time, to see that glint of excitement and determination in his eyes. The boy is practically bouncing from one foot to the other. His bandaged fingers are twitching at his side. Nothing can keep him down for long.

"Yes!" Zack grins, feeling fired up. "I am so able to do it! Just tell me where to start."

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