Title: Cruel and Unusual
(originally posted in IJ's No True Pair community in Jan. 09; now making an LJ-side index for it too)
Fandom: FF7 (KH) and Fruits Basket
Pairing/characters: Zack and Tohru
Warnings: None really
Prompt/challenge you're answering: "Zack/Tohru , captivity scenario"
Notes: So I challenged myself to think of the least likely situation available for that scenario. And I came up with Tohru as the jailer, because really, Tohru. Still, I suspect you can guess what happened next...
When he first woke, Zack couldn't pin down what was wrong. There was an ache there, something deeper than flesh and blood, something needing. Something needing him.
He might have been able to track down a source sooner if he'd had any idea what fragging planet he'd awakened on, though. This place... sure as hell wasn't Midgar. For one thing, there were flowers.
For another, there were talking ducks. For a certain definition of talking, that was. Wearing shirts and nothing else. And the other residents didn't seem to think this was particularly odd.
Zack found himself a cafe, charmed the waitress into a glass of tea and some gossip, and found himself with more of an earful than he'd ever been expecting.
There was some kind of combat arena run by the god of the dead -- that certainly explains a few things, he thought ruefully, even while he nodded and gave the girl his most encouraging smile. And the latest combat's victor might have been Zack's little brother -- blue eyes, brown spiky hair, a delightful grin that shone like the sun...
Not Cloud, then, Zack thought, feeling his heart sink a little. But it never hurts to ask.
He could have fallen out of his chair when the girl recognized Cloud's name, though, and started to chatter about him: a sword nearly as broad as he was, wrapped in bandages, a bat's wing and a claw and all in black and -- whoever had been giving the kid fashion advice, Zack intended to have a few words with them, because the kid was broody enough without raiding Sephiroth's closet for hand-me-downs.
Except that then the waitress was talking about Sephiroth, too. And about how suddenly and drastically he'd changed his habits a few weeks ago--
Zack was out the door and halfway to the Coliseum at a dead sprint before he realized he'd even forgotten to ask what kind of currency people used to pay for their iced teas in this world.
On the other hand, given Sephiroth's history with the aftermaths of sudden drastic personality changes, he thought maybe he'd better deal with that first, in order for there to still be a world for him to owe a debt in.
Nobody at the Coliseum would tell him anything; half of them took a breath like they were about to let him in on the world's best joke, and then something occurred to them -- every bloody one of them -- and they stopped themselves short and made bad excuses and left too quickly. Zack wasn't in the best of moods by the time he pinned an imp against the wall and literally squeezed Sephiroth's current address out of him.
The whole notion of casually getting onto a ship and flying to another entire world when you were done with your day job kind of gave him the willies, and Zack almost wondered if the imp had been lying to him to get the squeezing guy off the planet, except that there were so many ships. And it kind of explained the ducks, maybe, not that he was sure if anything really explained the ducks, but that was for later. First of all was getting himself to this Hollow Bastion world and tracking down the address he'd been given.
He'd expected to be pointed at the giant falling-apart castle looming over the place, because hello, talk about places that looked like they'd suit a crazed megalomaniac suffering from delusions of godhood. Except that the street numbers didn't run that direction; instead, he found himself in front of a cosy little cottage-looking place with lilies in the windowboxes, and he was pretty sure he was going to have to go squeeze an imp some more until the door opened and all of a sudden his world tipped upside down and shook again.
The waitress had known about Cloud and Sephiroth because they made names for themselves in her world, in the fighting arena where the tourists went to gawk. She hadn't known about Aeris.
...He was pretty sure the squeaking sounds meant that she needed a little more air, except that he wasn't about to let go. Because as long as he was holding on to her, then he was holding on to her, and Zack figured that was a perfectly good way to spend the rest of his afterlife.
Several hours later, once she'd managed to convince him that even the newly-living dead still needed to breathe around here, once they'd laughed and cried and held each other and kissed and laughed and cried some more and were sprawled on her couch entangled in each other because neither one quite wanted to let go, the sound of the town chimes startled her.
"Freya bless, look at the time -- they'll all be home soon and I haven't even started the oven preheating!" And she was up and into the kitchen like a shot; Zack followed her as close as though he were leashed, because he still didn't trust letting her out of his sight in a world where Sephiroth was going unstable again.
"All?" he asked, scarcely daring to hope. "Cloud too?"
"Of course Cloud too; he knows how much trouble he'll be in if he skips out on our family dinner! And Leon, and Yuffie -- you haven't met them, but Yuffie's going to adore you, I know she will. Although I live in mortal fear of the amount of mischief you're going to make together. But you'll be good for Tohru too; I've been working on the poor girl's self-esteem, but she's near as bad as Cloud. Although much more agreeable when it comes to household chores and clothes shopping -- can you get the pie crust dough out of the refrigerator for me? The big copper bowl, and the herbs too -- thank you, love..."
All of the things he really ought to have asked in advance had somehow gotten lost in the bliss of of-course-Cloud-too and the rush of laughing, rushed, perfectly homey dinner preparations. And then the door burst open on a pair of chattering girls and a too-skinny young man all in black and Cloud, and the rest of the world went away for a while.
Cloud made squeaking noises when he couldn't breathe too. It was kind of cute. And Aeris still made the best pot pies on any planet.
He waited until the dishes were safely cleared away and the girls had dragged Cloud and Leon out into the living room for some kind of card game that involved a lot of thwapping sounds and bursts of giggles before he asked, though, just in case.
"Honey, about Seph..."
"Oh." Her eyes shifted for a minute, guilty, but ...amused too? "He has a choice. If he wants to eat dinner with the rest of us, I expect him to dress for it. And we left him a perfectly good range of garments. So I don't see the problem."
"Aeris, hon," Zack said,
"what are you talking about? The girl on
"And you wondered if he was breaking again?" Aeris asked, with eyes far too old for her age. "He's... not the same. I don't know if he'll ever be the same. He has good days and bad days, and I try to be more understanding on the bad days, but really, I think on the whole we're helping -- if only because he has to spend so much time trying to figure Tohru out that there's less space left over for thoughts of conquest and mayhem! And she has a remarkably soothing effect on people when she's not agitated herself... here, I suppose the best thing would be to ask him yourself, wouldn't it?"
"He's here?" Zack asked, startled. "He's been here the whole time?"
"I told you we left him a perfectly good range of wardrobe, didn't I?" Aeris said, with an imp's grin. "It's hardly my fault if he's being indecisive. Come on."
She led him upstairs and knocked on the door to one of the rooms lightly, calling, "Sephiroth?"
"Sephiroth, there's someone here who wants to see you very much."
"Tell the girl to take her hair ribbons and leave my head alone."
"Tohru's just concerned that your hair could fly into your eyes while you're fighting!" Aeris said, hands on her hips, but the hilarity in her eyes gave the lie to the stern note in her voice. "And that's not who I'm talking about."
"If she's managed to summon the madman responsible for that... that satin thing, then I intend to bar that door."
"I already apologized for the cocktail dress, now didn't I. But you can't tell me that your foes wouldn't be stunned immobile for a good ten seconds at the least!"
"The cocktail dress?" Zack yelped.
The door came off its hinges when he wrenched it open; Sephiroth stood there in nothing but a bedsheet wrapped around his hips, pupils blown wide enough that he might almost have passed for human if it weren't for the flex of that wing.
"Hey, boss," Zack said carefully, caught between the need to hold him and the dread of bitter memory. "How's your head?"
Sephiroth's hands closed tight about the doorframe, as though he were struggling with the same need to reach out. "Better without the girl attaching things to me," he said, and took a shaking breath. "Get me out of here, Zack. She has chocobo barrettes."
Zack looked back and forth between Aeris and Sephiroth, still not quite sure he was tracking what was going on here. "Seph -- has someone got a spell on you? If you want to go..."
"I can't," he muttered, and dug a hand through his hair. "She does the thing with the eyes. And I swear she's even better at it than you are. I can't just leave. She's given me a home. I didn't know homes were so noisy, or so full of people, or that you could have a home even if... even if you're an important person's Darkness. Even if you brought grief to him, to the whole world -- she looks at me and she doesn't mind. And she wants me to stay. I don't know why. But when she looks at me, she doesn't hate me, and ...I can't seem to walk away."
"Oh, Seph," Zack said, feeling his throat close on everything he hadn't said, everything he hadn't done, everything that had broken into a thousand shards he'd despaired of ever piecing together again -- everything this unknown girl had managed to gather up for him anyway. He reached out half-blind, and then Sephiroth's arms were around him, and...
It wasn't that everything was all right, not by a long shot -- but there was something there now, someone there to work with. Something to try to make it better.
"But if either of them tries anything with satin again," Sephiroth murmured into his hair, still holding him tight, "I will not be held responsible for my actions."
"I'll see what I can negotiate with these vicious oppressors of yours, boss," Zack said. "Laws against cruel and unusual clothing and so forth."
All the same, he ducked his head down against Sephiroth's chest to make sure his once and hopefully-future friend couldn't see the grin on his face.
ETA: Series index here!