Warnings: Zack is driving.
Word Count: 3923
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: Sephiroth is annoyed. Zack is dangerous. And a side-trip is cause for alarm...or is it?
Sephiroth hefted his duffel bag onto his shoulder and left his apartment, a faint frown on his lips as usual. His thoughts kept returning to a certain artist he knew and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't seem to focus on much else. The few texts they had exchanged had been nonchalant and generic, nothing of importance really. All except for the last one Keiji had sent him. That one stuck in the general's mind quite firmly and he still wasn't sure the full ramifications of it.
- ~['Well, it is your job, but Zack said your work is sometimes dangerous. I'll try not to worry. --K']~
Even as the general stepped into the private elevator, his mind went over the words and his head tilted. Why would Keiji worry about him? Worry meant concern about someone. Concern meant that the person must have some relationship with the other to feel such a thing. Right? Or perhaps it was simply something which was said to another but had no true sentiment behind it. He wasn't sure. Being unsure he tried to figure it out...and that wasn't going so well. He could comprehend it from Dani perhaps. From Cloud even, for he'd known the blond Third for the past two years. And of course he could understand such a sentiment from Zack if they were ever apart on separate missions, which hadn't happened in a very long time. But Keiji...the man didn't even know him. Why would he be concerned for Sephiroth's safety?
His frown had turned to a puzzled expression as he exited the elevator, stalked across the nearly empty lobby of the ShinRa tower and finally out into the early evening air. He sighed, noticing that his ride wasn't there yet and a glance at his chronometer told him he was 3 minutes early. He settled with his back against a light post and crossed his arms, his bag resting against his long leg as he studied the street before him.
What was it about the young artist that was so very alluring? He was beautiful, no doubt, but it wasn't simply that. He was shy but he did have a slightly bold streak, else he would not have texted Sephiroth to meet him at the coffee shop. Still, what was it exactly that had the great general so befuddled and overly interested in him? Sephiroth studied a crack which ran along the middle of the street for several meters, not really seeing it, his mind wandering in circles like a lost puppy. Damnation! This will drive me to distraction! It didn't occur to him that it already had.
Suddenly, his view was blocked by a black object, a rather large one, and his head lifted, gaze centering on the monstrous vehicle which Zack lovingly called a truck. Still trying to puzzle through his thoughts, Sephiroth picked up his duffel, approached the vehicle and eyed the smiling lieutenant inside. “You are late,” he groused, tossing the bag into the back seat as he climbed into the front. Without glancing to Zack again, Sephiroth buckled his seat belt and silently wished he'd chosen to drive instead of allowing Zack to pick him up. Zachary Fair wasn't well-known to be a safe driver. In fact, he was rather dangerous, especially when they were in his vehicle.
Zack lifted one dark brow at his superior but his smile didn't fade as the man climbed in. “I'm not late. You're early,” he answered as he waited till Sephiroth had buckled his belt before he dropped the truck into first gear and they left the curb.
Sephiroth crossed his arms and tried not to look directly ahead of him. It often made him queasy. He wasn't the type to endure motion sickness. In fact, that sort of thing usually didn't trouble him in the least. However, watching Zack weave among the traffic, ignoring nearly all safety measures and traffic rules was unsettling. “I am always on time,” he stated absently. The general had learned through years of experience that arguing with his second while he was attempting to maneuver the metallic monster through the city streets was simply begging for trouble. So instead, Sephiroth looked out the window, watching the passing scenery and focusing on his mental puzzle again.
Zack was slightly surprised he didn't gain an argument from his friend but he didn't question it. He did, however, glance to his superior more than a few times as they drove along. Sephiroth seemed to be in a thoughtful mood and Zack wondered if those thoughts had anything to do with a certain waiter/artist they both knew. Zack truly hoped so. Keiji really was a pretty little thing. Timid and a little uncertain, he was intelligent, had a bright smile and he was talented too. He didn't seem overly impressed by Sephiroth's status as war hero, he didn't appear to be completely ga-ga over the man's physical attributes. In fact, Keiji seemed to be interested in Sephiroth simply as a man. At least it looked that way to Zack. And in the lieutenant's book that meant he was perfect for his best friend.
The drive was, as Sephiroth had come to expect, a bit unsettling and it was difficult to concentrate on anything except trying -not- to actually notice the honking horns, screaming obscenities and scattering pedestrians they passed. “Zachary, slow down,” he commented. The vehicle was rather loud and with each gear-shift it seemed to get louder instead of quieter. Sephiroth glanced to his second and narrowed his stare. “That's an order, lieutenant!” he added when they didn't slow their progress.
Zack was pulled from his own thoughts by the comment and smirked, “I thought you liked going fast.”
“Zachary...” Sephiroth responded in a warning tone.
“Yeh, yeh, okay. Geez, you're no fun,” Zack answered, chuckling as he slowed their speed and evaded a stalled car when they neared a traffic light. Forced to stop by the red light, Zack shifted into first and glanced to his superior.
Sephiroth had that look on his face. The one that silently said, 'I'm going to squash you like a bug if you don't pretend to have a brain'.
“So, um, we're going to meet Cloud and the others at the airfield. Just in case you were wondering,” Zack commented conversationally, hoping to distract the general before he was badgered with questions which, no doubt, would put a rather large kink in the lieutenant's plan.
Sephiroth sighed and focused out the window again, secretly glad they'd been forced to stop. The weird flip-flopping of his stomach annoyed him but it never happened unless Zack was driving. Strange. “Very well,” he answered, not interested in conversation.
Again, Zack found himself wondering what Sephiroth was thinking. The man had a puzzled expression on his face and he was apparently not in the mood for discussion. Hmm... Zack shrugged to himself as they continued on their way, smoothly taking the long route and hoping again that Sephiroth wouldn't catch on until it was too late.
As Sephiroth's thoughts whirled around in his brain like a tornado, he wasn't really aware Zack wasn't heading directly to the airfield. It did seem to take a little longer than usual but he didn't comment. They were, after all, an hour early so there was no rush, although Zack had sped up again, Sephiroth could tell from the uneasy shift in his belly.
It was a couple of minutes later that the general noticed a particularly large and well-known sign nearby and straightened, semi-surprised by this new development. He was frowning as he questioned, “Where are you going?” His head turned and piercing green fixed on his lieutenant.
“Huh?” Zack responded mechanically as he weaved through two slower-moving vehicles and rounded a corner, the huge tires squealing slightly at the sudden change in direction.
Sephiroth was forced to grab the handle near his temple to keep from being thrown into his friend's lap. “Zachary!”
“What?!” Zack answered, his eyes on the traffic which had become a little more dense in this part of town.
“Where are you going? The airfield is in the opposite direction!” Sephiroth glanced ahead of them, back to Zack, ahead again and finally roared, “If you do not explain yourself in the next few seconds I shall be forced to take action!”
Zack glanced further ahead, found a neat opening in the traffic and began to maneuver the truck through it as he answered, his focus on driving. “I've got one stop to make before we go to the field. C'mon, we're an hour early! Trust me, it won't take but a few minutes.”
Sephiroth considered more argument but after a look at the tight openings Zack was forcing their vehicle through he decided against it. Zack didn't need any distractions at this moment. “One of these days, Zachary Fair, I will be pushed beyond my limits of control and I shall not be responsible for my actions.” He clenched his jaw as they slowed slightly, the truck just barely able to press between two buses which were moving along at the same speed, leaving just enough of a gap for their vehicle. For a fraction of a second, Sephiroth closed his eyes and turned his head away, hand tightening on the handle near his temple. “Remind me never to get into a vehicle with you at the wheel again,” he muttered mostly to himself.
Zack increased speed once they were past the buses and in less traffic, a slight smile on his face as he glanced to his superior. “Aw come on, Seph! You're a SOLDIER! You're not afraid of anything!”
Sephiroth's glare turned to fix on his second. “I fear nothing but the stupidity of men who think they own the streets simply because they drive the largest, heaviest, most pathetic piece of mechanical equipment on the Planet!”
Zack chuckled quietly and stuck out his tongue. “I love my truck.”
“Of this I have no doubt. Nonetheless, it is nothing to be proud of. A great hulking piece of--”
“Seph! Don't say that! You'll hurt her feelings!” Zack patted the dashboard and laughed as he pulled up at a curb then put the truck in park.
“What? It is a vehicle, Zachary, not a woman. A piece of machinery, not a--” Sephiroth started off on a tangent but stopped when the truck came to a halt. For a brief instant the difference in movement and non-movement made his stomach lurch again and he swallowed. He glanced around and upon realizing where they were his gaze narrowed on Zack again. “Why are we here?”
“Like I said, I wanted to make a stop before we left.” He unbuckled his seat belt. “C'mon Seph. We're going to be gone for a week, maybe two and we'll be stuck drinking that bitter, nasty shit they call coffee for at least that long. I just wanted one last, wonderfully delicious cup before we go.” Zack responded with a huge smile as he quickly got out. He hurried around the back of the truck toward the coffee shop but stopped when he heard Sephiroth's voice.
“You have precisely five minutes, Commander! We do not have time for ridiculous cravings!” Sephiroth was glaring but instinctively knew it would do no good. In fact, he should have ordered Zack back into the vehicle but he didn't. Friendship was something which held a complicated number of things that had more than a few times caused problems in both his personal and professional life. Being friends with Zachary Fair had become an ongoing lesson in patience. However, it wasn't that which kept him from calling Zack back. It was a glimpse of a tiger-kitten exiting the shop wearing a snug pair of black pants, his hair pulled into a pony tail down his back and watching that sweet ass moving in a sultry manner as he headed toward a pair of customers. Oh this is so not fair. Damn, damn, damn!
“Right! I'll be right back! I promise!” Zack gave a quick attempt at a salute and was gone, hurrying toward the shop then disappearing inside, calling something to Keiji who turned to wave at him.
Sephiroth sat there trying not to stare at Keiji as the artist smiled and poured something from a shiny kettle into the two cups placed before his customers. Damn. Nobody should look that good while waiting on other people. It's just...wrong. He drew a breath and frowned a little harder, working to summon frustration enough to do something about his predicament. After a few seconds he achieved his goal and huffed, opened the door, climbed out and started around the vehicle, fully intending to get behind the wheel of this monstrosity. He wasn't about to allow Zack to drive the rest of the way. Gaia only knew what else his lieutenant might have planned in that devious little half-brain.
The usually calm and in-control general skidded to a halt, managing not to flail like an idiot only because his hand grabbed the truck's roll bar, keeping him from it. There was no reason whatsoever that he should have felt a skittering of excitement up his spine at the sound of that voice. And, there was absolutely no explanation why he was feeling his face growing warm. Sephiroth ignored both and turned, facing the owner of that sweet voice as Keiji jogged toward him, tea kettle in hand. “Hello, Keiji.” Oh, I am in such deep shit... I told him I wouldn't be coming here this evening. What will he think? Damn you Zachary!
Keiji didn't know whether to be happy or upset that the general was here. He had said he couldn't make it. But here he was. And yet he was trying to escape without being noticed apparently. For a second, the young waiter simply stared up into that gorgeous face then shifted his stare and studied the man's chest. Sweet Gaia...what a chest! “U-um...you said you couldn't make it. I wasn't expecting you,” he managed, although there was a note of hurt in his tone. He still wasn't sure how he was feeling but at that particular moment he was enduring confused hurt.
The general cleared his throat and glanced toward the shop but Zack was nowhere in sight. It was unlikely Sephiroth would be rescued anytime in the next few seconds. Damn him! “Yes, well, it was unplanned. We are on our way to the airfield. Zachary insisted we make a side-trip so he could get coffee...of all things.” He gave an attempt at a chuckle but it lacked humor as he looked to the doorway again, feeling very much out of his comfort zone in this situation. Zachary, I swear I will make you regret throwing me into this situation without warning.
Keiji glanced over his shoulder to the shop then back to Sephiroth and gave a slight nod. “Oh. I see. Well, I don't want to keep you.” He nodded again, feeling embarrassed and wondering if he had read the signs all wrong. Maybe Sephiroth wasn't interested in him at all. Maybe he had just been put on the spot by Zack and was trying to get out of the predicament without being rude. Of course he is! Damn, Kei, the man is a war hero! You are a fucking waiter! He glanced up one last time to that handsome face and took in all the details. It was highly unlikely he'd be seeing Sephiroth again. The man was someone of great importance. He didn't have time for things like getting to know little nobodies like Kei. Well, shit! “I hope your mission goes well,” he said by way of farewell, forcing a smile which he didn't feel. He turned and started back toward the shop, embarrassed and hurt. Why hadn't Sephiroth simply told him he didn't have time for him, or wasn't interested...or something? Anything would've been better than this awkward situation!
Sephiroth watched as Keiji stumbled over words and felt even worse than he had when he'd exited the truck. Now, he sensed the lovely waiter's upset and when Keiji started to walk away, Sephiroth suddenly felt his hand on the man's arm. “Keiji?” He stopped speaking, his brain confused, his gaze flickering to his hand on Keiji's arm. Why did I do that? What am I supposed to say now?
“Y-yes?” Keiji's emotions were conflicted. It would be much easier to just ignore him and go. Any explanation now would surely lead to more embarrassment and awkwardness. Didn't Sephiroth know that? Frustration with himself as well as the general filled Kei's mind as he turned his head to look at the man but when he opened his mouth to comment he couldn't speak. There was confusion and something else in those green eyes watching him.
Sephiroth simply stared for an eternal instant. Caught by those beautiful golden eyes, the great general was quite simply speechless. “I-I...” he did attempt to speak but couldn't find the words. The little waiter returned his stare, surprise on his face and those eyes... Damn those eyes! They are so alluring, so deep... His gaze dropped to Keiji's mouth and Sephiroth's heartbeat quickened. Gaia...such sweet lips. Tempting and sensual and... Without warning, his body took over before his brain could kick in and in the next instant Sephiroth was leaning toward Keiji, his lips meeting those parted ones which silently begged him to taste them. It took a long second for Sephiroth to realize what he'd done and when he finally regained control over himself he lifted his head to apologize...and couldn't. His hand, possessively wrapped around Keiji's arm caressed unwittingly, his expression shifted and his gaze flickered from the artist's mouth to those damnable, beautiful eyes. “I apologize that I cannot stay, Keiji. But I look forward to seeing you again when I return,” he heard his voice murmuring softly. Well, at least you didn't bungle that, thank Gaia!
Zack exited the shop in a rush, mentally expecting to hear a shout at any moment but when he glanced toward where he'd parked the truck he was struck dumb by what he saw. Sephiroth was leaning toward Keiji, the little waiter holding a bright metallic kettle in his hands and the two were staring at one another as if there was nobody else on the Planet. Zack simply gaped for a second. Damn! Did I miss something, or is he gonna kiss Kei? C'mon! Realizing he was staring and grinning like an idiot, Zack backed into the shop's doorway and nearly ran over the other waiter, a young female who squeaked at him. He immediately turned and steered her back inside, manufacturing some ridiculous comment that would keep her busy for the next few seconds. “Haven't we met before?”
Keiji was utterly shocked and inordinately pleased. His face was flushed as he stared into those stunning green eyes and for the longest moment he couldn't even hope to think of words. Sephiroth spoke and Kei simply nodded mutely, a tiny smile on his lips. Feeling he was expected to say something halfway intelligent, Keiji licked his lips and in response felt an electric tingle course over his entire body as realization struck again with amazing force. I'm dreaming. Gotta be. That did not just happen. A hand lifted to lightly touch his cheek and Kei blushed, the touch forcing his voice to work somehow. “I-I understand. It's...it's alright.” He nodded stupidly and his smile widened. “I look forward to it too...S-sephiroth,” he whispered, thinking that he had to be screaming because his voice sounded way too loud in his own ears.
Sephiroth just smiled a little and straightened, glancing over Keiji's head to the doorway where he could see his second's dark head just barely visible every few seconds. “Commander!” he called, making sure he wasn't too loud so he wouldn't deafen Keiji who was still standing very close. Gaia, he wanted to taste him again. That hadn't been enough! But, why had he done that? In public, of all things! He didn't glance around but could feel eyes on him, people staring in his and Keiji's direction. Had they seen? Surely they had. At least the truck wasn't parked in front of the shop but to the side, not quite as glaringly obvious. But it was very large, black and loud, even while idling. Yeh, people had to have seen that. He looked back to Keiji and the dazed look on the waiter's face made his smile widen slightly. “Feel free to text me while I am gone, hm? I cannot take calls, but texts are permitted.” At that instant he wondered if he was pushing the fragile beginnings of a relationship but his brain squashed the idea nearly immediately. To be honest, he didn't really care. And hells...he really, really wanted to taste those lips again.
Keiji jumped slightly as Sephiroth called out but didn't make a sound. It seemed as though his own voice was pretty much frozen in his throat. Sephiroth kissed me! Yeh, this has gotta be a dream. But it's a really good one! The man spoke again and Keiji watched his lips move, licking his own, the memory of that kiss making his face blush and his insides warm. He felt all tingly and knew he was smiling like an idiot, but he didn't care. He nodded automatically. “Um...okay,” he murmured, still feeling like he was shouting.
Zack heard Sephiroth's call and huffed, smiling down at the redhead. “Yeh, you're right. But I'm glad I can say I've met you now, Lucy.” He winked at her, turned on his heel and headed out the door again. “Coming, General!” He noticed Sephiroth and Keiji were still close together but time wasn't standing still and he approached slowly. Seeing that Sephiroth was a little busy, Zack headed for the driver's side, coffee cups in hands, a smile on his lips. “Hey Kei,” he called as he passed the waiter.
Sephiroth cleared his throat again, allowed the briefest caress of Keiji's cheek with his thumb then straightened and turned toward the passenger's side door. His thoughts about driving had vanished from his mind. He had other things to keep his mind occupied. As he climbed in, he looked once more to Keiji, noting the lovely waiter was staring and smiling and clinging to the kettle as if it was some holy relic. “I will be careful, Keiji. Goodbye.” He allowed another small smile, climbed in and closed the door then automatically took the Styrofoam cup Zack offered him. “Thanks,” he muttered absently.
Keiji just nodded, smiling as the general got into the vehicle. As the engine revved, Kei moved toward the passenger door and looked one last time at the general. “Goodbye...Sephiroth.” He gave a nod as he stepped back, still staring, blushing to his toes and clinging to the tea kettle.
“Later, Kei!” Zack called with a slight wave, knowing the waiter wasn't even aware of him. This is so excellent! I can't wait to tell Cloud! He pulled the monstrous piece of machinery away from the curb with unusual slowness, allowing the two to keep eye contact for longer than was necessary. Zack was grinning like a Cheshire cat as he pulled into traffic, aware of how the general looked back, even going so far as to turn in his seat to keep Keiji in sight, which was very unlike him. I can't believe this! Now...next on the itinerary, Plan B!