FFVII – Training Sephiroth – (Chapter Three: Target Acquired)
Warnings: Devious Zack + Clueless Seph = interesting coffee break
Word Count: 4926
Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy characters, places and situations are the property of Square Soft/Square Enix and are used without permission and without intent of plagiarism or profit.
Author's notes: This is completely AU (alternate universe). The idea is original, the characters don't belong to me (I'm just borrowing them). This is for my fellow FFVII friends/fans. I hope you enjoy.
Summary: Zack takes Sephiroth out for coffee – and a distraction.
The day was colder than usual, the winter in full swing yet the two SOLDIERs moved along the street at a steady pace, nearly oblivious to everyone and everything in their path. They were headed for the coffee shop which Zack insisted had the ‘best coffee this side of Gongaga’. Although Sephiroth severely doubted that claim he wasn’t of a mind to argue with his second and instead moved quickly along, glancing occasionally to the lieutenant who was smiling and chatting as he had been doing since they’d left ShinRa Tower.
Zack had about him the ability to appear constantly in high spirits, which had earned him the nickname ‘Puppy’ among his friends. He literally bounced and talked on a regular basis and his friendly, happy personality was impossible to ignore, even if it occasionally grated on his superior’s nerves. Today, Zack had been insistent on going to the coffee shop and dragging Sephiroth with him. For the past week the lieutenant had been secretly but diligently watching the place and collecting data. He was now quite pleased with the information he’d gathered. Although the forever-stalwart general had not mentioned the attractive man he’d met at the reception two weeks earlier, Zack knew the blond wasn’t far from Sephiroth’s mind. More than a couple of times Zack had caught the general with a distant look in his eyes and the hint of a smile on his face and for Sephiroth that was nearly unheard of. Thankfully his few moments of distraction hadn’t been noticed by anyone of importance. It was only Zack, Cloud and Sephiroth’s secretary Dani who had observed the little quirks which silently screamed that their general was preoccupied by thoughts of someone.
Sephiroth stopped in mid-march and blinked when his companion slammed into his back. “Zachary!” he reprimanded but it didn’t hold the usual annoyance or venom as it might have at any other time. Sephiroth’s gaze was centered on a figure yards away which looked familiar…but not the same as he remembered.
“Oomph,” Zack huffed as he found himself face-to-back with Sephiroth. He quickly backed up and ran a hand over his face, trying to clear it of the silver locks which clung to him like a spider’s web. The reprimand made him frown, “What?” he questioned then glanced up, still batting away clingy silver strands, to see what had caused the sudden stop. He smirked as violet-blue eyes fixed on the figure he had become familiar with over the course of the past week. “Hmm…he looks strangely familiar,” he commented quietly, taking another step back in case his friend reached around to smack him. Sephiroth might be occasionally surprised but he wasn’t the type to let things go. Especially if he thought he was being set up. Zack could only hope that his friend’s interest in the blond would overwhelm any more violent tendencies lying dormant inside his general.
Sephiroth’s surprise was pushed to the back of his thoughts as he turned his head and set a glare on his second. “Zaaack…?” he questioned in a rising warning tone.
Zack lifted a brow and fought to withhold a smile, which was only partially successful. “Whaaat…?” his innocent response came in a similar tone.
Sephiroth sighed and shook his head. “This is one of your devious plots, is it not?” He glanced back to the young waiter currently placing cups of something on a table in front of a pair of women. He looked much the same as he had the night of the reception but for one obvious difference. Instead of the luxurious honey-gold, his hair was now streaked with black, a startling change which gave him a more definitive exotic appearance. As if tiger stripes, the bright and dark coloring in his hair seemed to lure the eye into gazing for longer than was necessary. At least that was the effect it had on Sephiroth. Why did he dye his hair? It was so lovely that night.
Zack gave a nonchalant shrug as he moved to his commander’s side. “Um, maybe…” he sidestepped a little. “Or maybe not,” he finished noncommittally, sliding a glance to his friend. Oh yeh, the Great Sephiroth is smitten. He firmly denied himself the desire to do a victory dance in the middle of the street.
For a few seconds Sephiroth simply stared then huffed and turned on his heel. “Not interested,” he grumbled as he started back in the direction of the ShinRa building.
Zack was surprised, in fact he was completely caught off-guard for a second but quickly caught up with his friend. “Hey! I want coffee!” he argued, pulling his expression into a frown which was a difficult task given what he’d just witnessed.
Sephiroth kept his pace and huffed again, “You are incorrigible, Zachary. At any rate, ShinRa provides coffee for all its employees, both military and civilian. We shall make do, as we have for years.”
Zack kept up with Sephiroth’s long-legged strides through years of practice, occasional bounces and skips necessary to make up for the general’s larger steps. Finally he attempted to dig in his heels, grabbed his friend’s arm and dragged him to a halt, although it wasn’t so much the effort as the fact Sephiroth allowed him to do so. “C’mon, Seph! You know you want to see him again. Anyway, they do have the best coffee in town.” Seeing the expression on his general’s face, Zack smiled, “Pretty please?” He tugged on Sephiroth’s sleeve. “C’mon…you know you wanna,” he forced himself not to bounce but the effort was nearly impossible. Instead the lieutenant was bobbing slightly beside the general like a dark cork in a stream beside a much larger, silver rock.
For a minute Sephiroth considered ignoring his friend’s insistence. Then, he dared to glance back to the coffee shop, the blond caught his attention again and that conquered any hopes of keeping his resolve. He shook his head and centered his glare on his lieutenant. “You are insufferable, Zachary Fair!” He sighed, feeling the helplessness he usually experienced when he was drawn into one of Zack’s crazy schemes. “How did you find him?” He looked to the waiter and fought not to openly stare. He was really too beautiful to be doing something so menial. He should be on the cover of a magazine or on a billboard or…in my bed! What?! Reverse thrusters! Mind out of the gutter, Sephiroth!
Zack grinned, “It wasn’t too hard. But, to be honest it was an accident. I’ve been dropping in every day for a week now. He said he’s been working there for a while. He’s a great waiter, too. Very attentive, friendly, knowledgeable, talkative, warm, bright, funny…” His praise faded as he smirked, “And anyway, the coffee is great!” He bounced excitedly again.
Sephiroth lifted one finely-arched brow as he felt a tingle of something hot in his belly which spoke of anger…or was that jealousy? He glared at Zack again, “Very well. BUT, I am only doing this because we are already here and I would like to actually have time to drink my coffee before my break is over. Is that perfectly clear, Zachary?”
Zack nodded like a bobble-head doll, grinning stupidly as he bounced on the balls of his feet. “Yes! Yes sir. Got it. No problem.” He released the general’s sleeve as they turned again and headed back toward the coffee shop. The whole time Zack was beaming and his mind was whirling with possibilities and plans. It was good to see Sephiroth had found someone he was attracted to. And, Zack couldn’t honestly say he found Keiji uninteresting. He was, as Zack had said, a great waiter but the lieutenant had found out Keiji was actually an artist. He was working as a waiter to bring in much needed income to pay the bills. Inside the shop were several of his paintings and although Zack wasn’t an art critic, he had quickly recognized the man’s talent.
Sephiroth avoided staring at the striking blond as he took a seat at a table outside the little café. Zack slid into the seat opposite him and when the general glanced in his second’s direction it was all he could do not to groan. Zack had a look of utter deviousness about him, something Sephiroth had come to know all too well. But, the general firmly decided he would not be dragged into one of his friend's wild schemes. They were here for coffee, nothing more and nothing less. With that decided, he picked up a menu which had apparently been left behind by the last customer and let his gaze peruse the selections. Not only did the shop offer coffee in a huge variety of flavors, along with various other drinks, they also had a large selection of desserts and even a small side-menu of sandwich specials. How had he missed this place? Well, it wasn’t incredibly close to ShinRa’s headquarters but still…
“So, what do ya want?” Zack leaned his elbows on the table, chin in his hands and set a stare on his friend who was scanning the menu as if it was the most interesting thing on the Planet.
Sephiroth’s brow rose again as he looked over the edge of the menu to a thoroughly pleased Zack. “Coffee,” he answered decisively.
“Yeh, right,” Zack chuckled, glanced to the doorway of the shop and tilted his head. “Bet you’d rather have something tall and lean with gold eyes and long, gold and black striped—“
“Zachary!” Sephiroth hissed, glanced around then shoved the menu at his friend. “Just choose something.” He felt the slight burn of a blush trying to edge onto his face and denied its existence. Although he wasn’t the type to blush often, on occasion he was cursed with the expression, usually caused in some way by Zachary Fair.
Zack laughed and took the menu, glanced at it then waved a hand, gesturing the waiter toward them. He didn’t miss the way Sephiroth was keeping his head low, his gaze set on the menu which he had grabbed again. So, ole Sephy is embarrassed? This is GREAT!
“Hello Zack, what can I get for y—“ Keiji began as he approached but stopped speaking, eyes wide as he noticed the man sitting across from the dark-haired lieutenant. Sephiroth!
Sephiroth tried not to stare. Honestly he did try, but the effort was useless. The man was simply delightful, delectable… Think with your other head, Sephiroth! Your BRAIN! Yes. Right. I can do this. He studiously stared at the menu but didn’t see a single word printed on it. Instead, he kept glancing up at the waiter. In other news, his pants were becoming uncomfortably tight. This is not happening. Zachary, your death is imminent. I only need a proper place to hide the body… He fidgeted slightly, trying to ignore the discomfort between his legs.
Zack smiled at Keiji and nodded, “Hey, Kei. How’s it going?” he glanced to Sephiroth to note the man was trying to appear nonchalant and not managing it well. It was probably because he kept stealing glances over the menu to the smiling waiter. Yeh, this is outstanding!
Keiji tried to center his attention on the raven-haired commander but that didn’t work as well as he’d hoped. He kept glancing to the silver general and finally murmured, “Sephiroth,” by way of greeting. Hearing Zack’s question as if from some other world, Kei smiled automatically and answered, “I’m fine,” but didn’t look in the lieutenant’s direction. For some stupid reason Keiji couldn’t take his eyes off the gorgeous SOLDIER who had stopped perusing the menu and was now staring at him openly.
Sephiroth’s every sense was alerted when his name fell from the lovely waiter's lips. Somehow the mere sound of it made his lower body scream. He imperceptibly shifted his weight and slid his hand into his lap, forcing his sudden erection into a slightly less painful position. He had practice with such difficulties but in this setting with this man it was more than a little uncomfortable. I shall get through this. It will pass. However, Zachary will find himself digging trenches for the next month, I swear it. He was unaware he was staring, his gaze flickering between gold eyes and full lips. Thoughts of touching and tasting sent his mind into a nose-dive toward the gutter again and he mentally grabbed for help. Hojo in a bikini. Yes. Hojo in a pink and green striped bikini. He imagined the visual aid and within seconds his erection had faded. Although he had to fight back a burst of laughter at the thought at least it’d had its desired effect. Thank Gaia!
Zack had gone silent, watching, smiling and feeling incredibly accomplished. Those two could almost be on another world, oblivious to everything and everyone around them. Very unusual for Sephiroth and highly exciting for Zack. It was encouraging for the lieutenant to watch the two smile shyly at one another. The faint blush on Sephiroth’s cheeks, the darker blush on Keiji’s was so…cute! Cloud’s not gonna believe this! Fan-freakin-tastic!
“Hello Keiji. How are you?” Sephiroth spoke quietly, staring up into those amazing gold eyes and wondering, not for the first time, how they managed to appear both depthless and so very bright. He felt as if he was being dragged in, deeper and deeper against his will. Calm, cool, observe and note, Sephiroth. Don’t screw up. Just be yourself. He withheld a groan at that thought. Be myself? Gaia, this is going to turn out badly.
Keiji was blushing fiercely as he responded, “I’m doing well. And how are you?” Does the man know how impossibly gorgeous he is? Gaia, he has to. Nobody can look at that face and body every day and not know! He fidgeted with his little notepad in one hand, a pencil in the other, unaware of the lieutenant commander nearly glowing with excitement only two feet away.
“I am doing very well thank you.” Uh, now what? Sephiroth felt out of sync and a little flustered, uncertain what to say or how to appear both interested and unimposing. Most people were afraid of him and those who weren’t gushed over him. The young waiter was doing neither but he had just arrived. Don’t let yourself expect too much, Sephiroth. He’s new to the whole ‘general of ShinRa’ thing. Pleasant conversation. Nothing personal. Keep it simple. “Um…I did not know you worked here.” Right. Simple-ton is more like it. Damn!
Keep going, Seph. You’re doing great. Just hang in there. This is easy-sauce, my friend. Just keep going. Zack squirmed slightly, putting his elbows on the table, chin in his hands and just watched for once, finding it completely unnecessary to interrupt. If Sephiroth got hung up on something Zack would leap to his rescue, but things were going okay for the moment.
“Yes. I’ve worked here for the past four months. It’s a nice place and Molly is great,” Keiji answered, smiling. You’re smiling like an idiot! I can’t help it! He’s just so handsome! So masculine! So... oh, shut UP!
“Molly?” Sephiroth questioned, glancing around then back to Keiji. Girlfriend? Fiancé? Mother? Sister? Give him a second, he’ll tell you! Damn, Seph!
“Yes. She owns the shop. Molly Cavanaugh. She’s great. Very kind. And, she lets me paint on my breaks too so I really enjoy working here.” Kei nodded, still smiling, still oblivious to the grinning commander who was watching the interaction closely.
“Paint?” Sephiroth’s interest was instantly peaked. Isn’t that what he just said? Can you sound any stupider, Sephiroth? You sound like a fucking parrot! Speak, damn it, don’t just repeat!
Zack bit his lip to keep from making a sound although he mentally heard a <squee> in his brain. Oh this is goooood! C’mon, Kei, tell him you’re a fantastic artist! Show him your work!
Keiji smiled again. “Yes, I’m…I’m sort of an artist.” His blush was burning his ears as he unconsciously shifted from foot to foot. Sort of an artist? Wow, let’s be vague, shall we, Kei? Shit!
“How interesting!” Sephiroth’s smile appeared, the one he hardly ever had an opportunity to use. It lit his eyes with delight and made his whole face brighten. Now I’m even more interested. Beautiful and artistic!. Too good to be true, Sephiroth. Don’t believe it.
Zack squirmed in his chair. C’mon, Kei, you’re a great artist! Tell him! Shit, just show him! He was grinning stupidly, utterly unaware of the fact he was watching the two like some tennis match, his gaze shifting from one to the other as they chatted. He’d known this was a great idea, just had no clue how it would go. So far things seemed to be moving along swimmingly!
Keiji gave a soft, slightly nervous laugh, “Yes, well, I’m not very good but I try. Perhaps someday I will be famous.” He laughed again in dismissal of the subject, not confident in his own abilities. And when I am I’ll look you up, General Sephiroth. That’s a promise!
Sephiroth was instantly aware of the blond’s heightened nervousness and wondered if he’d said something to cause it. Glancing to Zack he saw his friend was smiling and nodding so the general looked back to Keiji and answered quietly, “I would like to see your work some time. I enjoy art in all its forms.” Like you for instance. You are a magnificent piece of work… He heard a mental groan. Shit, I’m so glad that didn’t come out of my mouth. Talk about a pathetic comment. Zack would find it highly amusing I’m sure.
“I’d…I’d like that,” Keiji heard himself say then his gaze shifted to the table as nervousness overwhelmed him. Gaia, Kei! Don’t drool! He nearly touched his lips but licked them instead, blushing crimson as he mentally screamed at himself.
Sephiroth couldn’t think of anything else to say although his mind was whirling with thoughts he didn’t dare voice. Most of them centered around having the beautiful waiter within arm’s reach, mouth within tasting distance and that only caused his earlier tight-pants problem to return with a vengeance. Zack, I’m dying here…Gaia…SAVE ME! He withheld a groan but mentally it was deafening.
For a few seconds there was a tense silence but Zack quickly squelched it by straightening and placing his hands on the table. “So, um, Kei,” he smiled, “We’d like some coffee.” He nodded firmly. “I’d like my usual, please. And Seph…?” he looked pointedly at his general and lifted a brow.
Sephiroth re-situated himself again and fought the need to squirm. He could feel his cheeks were warmer than usual but perhaps no one would notice the slight flush. At Zack’s prompting, the general looked back to the menu in his hands and gave a half shrug. “There is so much to choose from…” he faded then looked up to Keiji. “What do you suggest?” Does he know how utterly adorable he is when he blushes?
Keiji stared for a long second then caught himself and forced his voice to work, “The espresso is quite good.” He nodded eagerly. “Molly has a special blend. She won’t tell me the ingredients but we’ve had a lot of compliments on it. Would you like to try it?” Stop fidgeting! C’mon, Kei! He’s just a guy! Uh, Sephiroth is not just a guy!
Sephiroth lowered the menu and nodded, “That sounds fine, thank you.” He continued to stare at the blushing waiter, watched as he scribbled on his notepad then with a smile Keiji was gone, disappearing into the shop with a quiet ‘I’ll be right back’. Sephiroth was left staring after him longingly. By all that’s holy, he has the cutest ass!
“Well?” Zack was grinning again as he leaned and poked the general in the arm.
Sephiroth’s attention was dragged back to his friend and met his smile with an expression of blank confusion. “What?”
Zack heard a mental message as clearly as he heard Sephiroth’s blank response. ‘I’m sorry, the general has stepped out for the moment. Please call back later…’ He couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped. “Well, what do you think? Isn’t he just gorgeous?”
Sephiroth blushed slightly as he frowned and looked back at the menu. “Zachary! That is an impertinent question.” Of course I think he’s gorgeous!
Zack rolled his eyes and huffed as he leaned back in his chair. He was still smiling when he went on, “C’mon, you know you think he’s beautiful, Seph. I just wanna hear you say it.” He waggled his brows when his best friend looked up to stare at him. “I think he’s gorgeous,” he admitted with a nod and wink. Oh yeh, Seph’s got it bad. This is terrific!
“Oh? I shall be sure to tell Cloud of your thoughts then. He will be most interested to know of your attraction,” Sephiroth smirked as he pretended to study the menu. Cloud would have your head on a platter if I told him that. Zack, this one is mine!
Zack's smile instantly faded. “What? Oh no! You wouldn’t dare! Seph? Seph! You can’t tell---”
Sephiroth chuckled and lowered the menu to the table, looking up to meet a worried frown. “I would not endanger your relationship with Cloud, Zachary. Do not worry,” he reassured quietly as he gave a slight nod and sighed. You have your little chocobo. This tiger-kitten will be mine. Eventually. He folded his hands on the table and glanced toward the open door of the shop then forced his gaze outward, looking around the street to the passersby. The little shop was on a corner but it wasn’t impressive from the outside. The tables, four of them, were small and somewhat battered from use as well as weather. The overhanging awning was slightly tattered but not in bad shape, the worn blue and yellow a bit dim. Still, it was a quiet setting and comfortable, giving the corner a relaxing feel. If the coffee was as good as Zack insisted and if the mysterious Molly was as kind and generous as Keiji said she was, Sephiroth wondered why the little shop was not better-known.
Shortly, Keiji returned with an espresso for Sephiroth and a latte for Zack. The young waiter smiled, blushed then left them to attend to an older couple who had sat down at a table nearby.
Sephiroth was surprised by the espresso but also impressed by it. He had endured the thick, nearly overwhelmingly bitter taste of ShinRa’s coffee for years but hadn’t really thought about how truly awful it was until now. He made a mental note to stop by this place often. Especially now that he knew Keiji worked here.
Zack sat and silently drank his latte, watching Sephiroth and keeping an eye on Keiji as well. The two stole glances and smiles at one another while the SOLDIERs sat at the table. When it came time to leave, their break over, the lieutenant insisted on paying for their drinks. Sephiroth allowed it as that had been the agreement when they’d left the office. The general quietly said his goodbyes, a brief few words as Keiji paused between the shop’s door and the interior, and although the smiles and blushes were still being exchanged, Zack was sure neither had made a date to see the other again. Determined, the devious commander managed to sidetrack the artist before he could disappear into the shop. With Sephiroth watching him from the curb, Zack pressed a hefty tip into Keiji’s hand. “This is for you, Kei. A little something extra for being such a great waiter. The coffee was wonderful, as usual. I’ll see you soon, hm?” He gave a wink to Kei, a smiling wave to Molly who stood inside at the counter then he rejoined Sephiroth and the two headed back to the office and the remainder of the day spent wading through paperwork.
Later that evening, Keiji was secreted in the back room of Cavanaugh’s Coffee Shop counting paper cups and preparing for the next day’s work. He had already cleaned the counters and tables and stacked the chairs outside, hoping they wouldn’t lose another one. It was weird and totally ridiculous why people thought it funny to steal chairs from the little café. But, in the past month they’d lost six chairs without reason. They could’ve brought the chairs inside and locked them up but the inside of the shop was just barely large enough to give them room to move around. Cleaning around them or even clearing enough space to make it to the doors would’ve been nearly impossible with sixteen chairs piled inside. So they simply made do. At least the chairs weren’t incredibly expensive.
He dug into his apron pockets and pulled out the tips he’d collected throughout the day. Not a bad day’s profit, he thought as he sat down in a corner and began to count out the gil. As he worked he found himself smiling and remembering the handsome general and his companion. Zack was amusing and sweet, always smiling and talkative. Sephiroth was quiet and intense but no less appealing. And, if he admitted it to himself, Keiji had been thrilled to see Sephiroth again. He’d been surprised though. Through a week of regular visits to the shop by Zack, Keiji had cautiously learned more about both him and Sephiroth. To find out that Sephiroth was in fact the leader of ShinRa’s army was a shock to say the least. Zack was the man’s second, his aide and best friend. The two made a somewhat unusual pair but they appeared to be close and the friendship between them was evident, at least to Keiji. They seemed total opposites but Keiji had a feeling Sephiroth was not as emotionless as he might look on the surface. He had a rare but warm smile and those glorious green eyes held mystery and something else not even explainable by mako.
Keiji knew a little about SOLDIERs now, thanks to Zack. The lieutenant commander had said Sephiroth was in fact the best SOLDIER ShinRa had ever produced. He was virtually unbeatable and no one had ever gotten the better of him in any situation…or so said Zack. It was likely he had been exaggerating but even so, Keiji knew there was something decidedly different about General Sephiroth. For one thing, his eyes were different. Instead of normal pupils, he possessed strange cat-like slits and it fascinated Keiji how those green eyes showed emotion as well as changes in lighting. He had not questioned Zack on that oddity but it did make him wonder. The general was also intensely handsome and masculine, despite the glorious length of that silver mane. That was another thing Keiji wondered about. How had he managed to let it grow so long when he was not only in the military, but a leader in that military? Keiji was secretly grateful to whatever gods or fates had allowed it. He couldn’t imagine Sephiroth with short hair. Even with those long silken locks the man just exuded masculinity. And today, those broad shoulders in that black shirt, lean hips in snug black pants, long legs with those shiny boots… Keiji sighed wistfully and the sound made him glance around and blush. Oh, please! Pull yourself together! He’s a GENERAL for Gaia’s sake! So far out of your league, Kei! Get a grip! Still, the faint few moments of daydream, no matter how ridiculous, lightened Keiji’s heart. Someday he would be somebody and once that happened he might be noticed by Sephiroth. Until then, he’d watch from afar and dream. He did, at least, still have his dreams.
He had lost track of the count and huffed as he began again, pulling out bits of straw paper, receipts and notes he’d written to himself from the handful of bills. He found inside a folded bill a small strip which had a number written on it. This caught his attention and he frowned, mentally trying to place who might have given it to him. It wasn’t terribly unusual to have someone slip him a phone number with a plea to call them but Keiji had no interest in romantic involvements. At least not right now. He was working too hard to simply survive. Romantic interests would only cause complications. He let his gaze peruse the number then turned the paper over and blinked. On the back was the comment ‘Call me’ and below it was written ‘ZF’. Keiji frowned, pondered and huffed. Who…? A minute later he realized who the note was from and straightened, surprised. Zack? Really? Although he had been friendly with the SOLDIER and there was a sweet attraction to him, Keiji couldn’t say he was intensely interested in the handsome lieutenant commander. Why would he leave his number? He’s had more than ample opportunity to ask me out this past week. Hmm… Well, the least he could do was call and see if Zack wanted to just talk or if he was interested in something else. If he was, that something else would have to wait. Keiji couldn’t allow himself to be dragged into a relationship right now with, of all things, a SOLDIER.