|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2008-02-17 23:58:00
Title: Akisu (either "prowler" or "empty nest")
Fandom: FFVII AU
Pairing: Zack & an escaped Safer-Sephiroth-model clone (eta: link fixed thanks to Jou!)
Rating: R (including xeno)
Disclaimer: totally not mine; never even played it in fact...
So Coyo went and got a concussion a while back, which produced the request for pr0n to make her feel better. I tried to think of what would make Coyo happy and came up with "Zack" and "xeno." ^__^ I am, as ever, horribly slow, although this time at least it was "a couple weeks late" rather than "a couple years late". XD;;;; I also kinda fail at pr0n details. The funny thing is I think some of the non-sex scenes are more sexy than the actual sex scenes, wherein I kinda flailed a lot (sweatdrop). Anyhow, fic ahoy!
Zack lived in Sector Three for a reason. He was reminded of that reason every time he got assigned as backup to the Sector Five squad because Sector Five was drowning in more muggings, mayhem, and drunks than their Soldier contingent could manage to police alone.
This call had come from a harried storekeeper raving about 'naked' and 'mutant' and 'drugged fucking brainless' and 'locked it in the janitor's closet now will you get your asses down here and do your job and get rid of the damn nuisance'.
"Naked," the sergeant who was tonight's shift manager said, with an unholy glee in his eyes. "Sounds right up your alley, Lieutenant."
So Zack had slogged his through the grimy snow on the way to the backside of some grungy 'convenience' store that sold a lot more alcohol than conveniences, and the manager on duty was pushing him toward the janitor's closet, chattering incoherently about 'freak' and 'naked' (several times) and 'be careful, it might bite' and so forth. Finally, Zack just took the key from him and suggested ever so politely that the manager could let the Soldier take it from here, because the manager clearly shouldn't be in the way in case the dangerous drug addict bolted for the exit.
The manager vanished so fast Zack wondered if the man had been getting into a few illicit enhancers himself.
There were no howls or thuds coming from inside the closet; the only thing he could hear was running water. Well, so far so good.
Zack got his shoulder against the door just in case, as he carefully unlocked it. If whoever was in there did try to rush the door as it came open, they'd have to have a hell of a lot of mass and momentum in order to make a Soldier budge.
His very first impression was just some old wino, and the poor old sod's taking a chance to clean up-- because the figure standing half-hidden by storage shelves and huddled over the sink was pale beneath the filth, a misshapen body and lank gray hair giving a muddled impression of age and dissolute living.
But then the figure turned, far too swiftly for an old stumbling drunk, and Zack caught his breath sharply.
The person was ...young, far too young for the ash-gray hair, and -- beneath the grime -- breathtakingly beautiful. And ...not male. But not female, either. Not, technically speaking, human. It was ...smooth, all the way from shoulders to hips, except for the flare of wings where legs should have been, a wing where an arm should have been, and ...it had been abused. There were bruises at its throat, bruises spreading across its ribs, blood streaking its chest, blood trickling down from its--
"Oh, fuck," Zack said, and it flinched, eerily bright eyes flickering around for an escape.
"No," he said quickly, awkwardly. "No, not you, I'm not mad at you, I'm--" Zack thought fast, discarding half a dozen official-intimidations and not-quite-truths, in favor of the one thing he hoped was truer than anything else: "I'm here to help you. Okay? Can I come in?"
It flinched further back into the corner, bloodied wings thrashing against the shelving, and Zack held up an empty hand, staying on the outside of the door. "Okay. Okay. I'll stay out here. Can you talk to me a little? --Who hurt you?"
It shook its pale head, still trembling, and touched its throat.
Zack winced a little. "Yeah, that looks like it hurts. Sorry. Look, let's get you to a doctor and--"
Apparently, mentioning 'doctors' was the wrong thing to do. The wounded creature made a horrible hoarse keening sound, and darted over to grab the door and pull on it -- trying to close him out, Zack realized. It wasn't going to get anywhere, not with only one arm and no leverage, but it was so determined Zack was afraid it might hurt itself worse; he held the door carefully still against both the pulls and the desperate shoves when the pulls didn't work, and then when it let go of the door and backed into the farthest corner and grabbed a broom handle with a wild, fevered glaze in its eyes, Zack thought things had gone far enough.
There was a reason Sleep materia were standard issue on sector patrol, after all.
Despite its awkward shape, the poor kid weighed so little that Zack could lift it in the crook of one arm. He pulled a plastic sheet off a rack and tucked it gingerly about the sleeping form, then walked out toward the front of the store.
"You got it?" the store manager asked, and Zack would have snarled at him if he hadn't been on duty and the kid hadn't been so oddly neither.
"Yes, I have the victim," he replied, very carefully, and took satisfaction in watching the manager's eyes widen and then fill with impotent frustration.
"Excuse me, I'm the victim here -- this thing's been lurking around my trash can for a week and Shinra just now decided to-- to-- wait, where the hell do you think you're going? Don't carry that thing into the store! Take it out back--"
Like hell was Zack going to take a young, abused experiment out through the back of the store with the trash the manager wanted to dispose of. His conscience, and thoughts of Sephiroth, would never have forgiven him. So he carried the sleeping being straight out into the store and started looking around for bandages, disinfectant, loose clothing -- nothing of his own would fit the slight frame nestled limp in his arms, after all, and doctors -- particularly Shinra doctors -- were clearly out of the question.
The store manager nearly had an apoplectic fit while Zack calmly held sweatshirts up to his sleeping charge, and shoved him out the door when Zack tried to get into the line of gawking drunks and swaggering street punks waiting to buy their alcohol. "Just go!" he wailed, pushing on Zack's broad shoulder. "Just take the stuff and get it out of here, and don't let it come back!"
It was close enough to the end of his shift that Zack turned for his apartment, radioing in his end-of-shift clock-out from the Sector Five train station. He reported his assignment complete -- after all, all the manager had wanted was the removal of the 'thing' from his store's premises. If Zack decided that the poor kid needed more care, well, that was a call he was making off duty; as long as it wasn't on the clock, he didn't have to take it to the doctors that terrified it.
One of Zack's real indulgences in life was his bathtub. He had to make sure not to run any other water for several hours if he wanted the decrepit old water tank to fill it properly hot, but he'd learned the knack of planning ahead. So the tub was well on its way to full and steaming-hot when the young creature blinked its way out of the sleep-spell and was back to fully alert and wary in under a breath.
When it realized that it had been very gently bound with soft but strong cords and padding, it struggled for a moment, then took a breath to not-quite-scream again; Zack cast a quick Mute, feeling guilty, but he really didn't want to explain to the fussy old aunt next door why the sounds coming from his apartment sounded more like torture than pleasure tonight. It struggled again, throwing its head back sharply, throat fluttering in voiceless panic; Zack gathered it into his arms again, carefully, and sighed a little when it tried to twist around enough to bite.
"Look," he said, holding it very gently but inexorably still. "I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a rapist. You're going to be fine. I just can't have you panicking and hurting yourself while I'm trying to help, okay? Nod if you understand."
Stiffly, the creature's chin bent just a fraction, but the fiercely luminous glare in its eyes said that 'understanding' had nothing to do with 'trust'. Well, that was fine for the moment; at least he wasn't actually dealing with an addict so far round the bend on the experimental drugs -- or withdrawal from them -- that he'd have to leave it trussed up like an animal whenever he couldn't restrain it himself. Even the small blessings were more than he dared hope for, some days.
One small blessing he sorely lacked, though, was a healing materia. It wasn't part of the standard arsenal. Stop, sleep, and mute could take care of most things they'd encounter on civilian patrol, with the occasional offensive materia for when the monsters crawled out of the sewers in unusual numbers, but the healing was always left to the hospitals. --The Shinra-owned, Shinra-run hospitals. And Zack didn't really need to ask why someone like this poor kid had gotten terrified of going back to them.
Without materia, the best he could do was bandages and rest and mild but nutritious food as he tried to make up for whatever experimentation and maltreatment had left the young creature with bloodied wings instead of arms and legs; but a nice long soak in a good warm tub would probably help a lot too. He tested the water temperature with an elbow, then lifted it gently and let it touch the water too.
"Too hot?" he asked, when it took a sharp breath; after a moment's frustration, it gestured with its one hand toward its lower half. "Hungry?" he asked, ruefully. "We can feed you when you're all clean and dry and fluffy -- but that's not it?"
It bristled, all its wings rigidly fluffed-out at once, in an inadvertently pathetic attempt at threat-display; within a heartbeat it made a pained noise and let its feathers slick down again, and the gesture had splattered blood around the bathroom. Zack sighed.
"Kid, look. I know birds don't like getting their feathers wet, and I'm guessing you've got the same instincts, but I need to get the blood cleaned up so I can see where to bandage you. Okay? I swear, I'm not going to boil you for dinner."
The young creature's gaunt hand tightened over the curve of its winged shoulder; after a moment, Zack thought it looked protective, not angry. It wasn't clawing at anything, it was ...terrified, yes, still, but terrified was different than raging. Terrified he could work with, given patience and opportunity.
"You're too used to being abused, aren't you," Zack murmured, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth. "Gods. If I could take out the whole damn science wing, I would, but then I don't know who'd keep their victims going without their damn records..." He tested the water again; it was hot, but comfortingly so, the sort of deep heat that soaked through to aching bones and muscles and made you go utterly limp. "I'm going to put you in now, okay?"
It caught its breath again when Zack lowered it into the water, but a moment later it gave a soft, voiceless sigh, eyes drifting closed in relief. Zack smiled, rueful and gentle, and cupped his hand behind the delicate curve of its throat in order to carefully ease its way deeper into the water.
"I'm going to wash your hair now," he warned it, cupping water to carefully trickle over the crown of its head, tilting its throat a bit further to keep the wet dribbles from trailing into its face or eyes. It opened its eyes and looked up at him again, but didn't struggle beneath his hands; it cast a glance down at its bonds, purposefully, then back to Zack's face, waiting.
"All right," Zack said, amused despite himself, and released the Mute as a sign of good faith. "I won't hurt you and you won't hurt me, right? I'll untie you as soon as I'm done with your feathers-- my fingers are too slick now."
The kid's hair was raggedly chopped off, as though it had been done without a mirror, or with a scientist's cold disregard for a test subject's physical appearance. Zack scrubbed the most luxuriant stuff he had through the poor badly-shorn mess -- shampoo three times over, until it was so clean it squeaked in his fingers, and then a rich detangling conditioner... not that its hair was long enough to need the detangling, but the conditioning couldn't hurt after years of mistreatment. And then there were the wings -- granted, he didn't make a habit of keeping chocobo wash in his bathroom, but he also wasn't one for frilly scented-and-colored flowery shampoo either, so hopefully a careful shampooing wouldn't make an irreparably chemical-stained mess of the kid's wings. It took time and caution to work his way through the damaged and broken feathers, tentatively learning where the still-bleeding wounds were and where the blood had simply been spread around by panicked thrashing.
By the time he was satisfied with his work, the poor kid had gone nearly limp in his hands, so deeply relaxed -- and so tired -- that it was nearly asleep in the tub.
He drained the dirty water and refilled the tub with fresh, rinsing the shampoo out of its feathers with the showerhead. Then he brushed a thumb along its nose lightly, teasing. "Wake up, sleeping beauty," he said lightly. "Don't want you to drown while we're getting you fixed up, after all."
It made a discontented little noise, apparently more than willing to remain bound if that meant it could also remain warm and floating and at rest. Zack grinned and flicked a few drops of water at its cheek; the vivid green eyes blinked and its nose crinkled like a cat's, and it lifted its head from the water with a grudging, still drowsy half-obedience.
"Good," Zack said, and rinsed his hands again to be rid of the last of the conditioner, in case the cords had gotten tighter in the water. As he picked at the knots carefully, he mused, "Y'know, I've got to call you something other than Sleeping Beauty. Do you have a name?"
"...nh." The kid swallowed, painfully, then decided it wasn't worth trying again, with an awkward shrug.
"I'll ask you again later, then," Zack said, "when we've got you all healed up. For now, though... hmm."
The last of the knots slid free, and Zack pulled the plug, then lifted the kid into a big soft towel that was made for rumpling. It lifted a corner to scrub at the newly clean, silver-gleaming hair that was dripping into its eyes, but otherwise seemed content to rely upon Zack's strength for support and Zack's deft hands to softly dry without worsening the injuries. Next was antiseptic salve, gently smoothed over the wounds, and then bandages, carefully wrapped and fastened about its wings.
The kid scrunched up its nose again in distaste at the rose-pink sweatjacket that Zack had brought from the store, but Zack gently eased its arm into the sleeve, then tore out the side seam to coax its wing through the other side, taking care with easing the jacket over the bandaged wings that terminated its body. The jacket was going to need to stretch to cover that mess of wings, though, and it shivered at the touch of the metal zipper; Zack left the jacket unzipped, and curved a hand to the bundled-up feather-tangle of white bandages and whiter, silver-sheened feathers.
"Moon," he said, wryly. "I'll call you Moon. Because you're too damn pale to be healthy, but you're still ...breathtaking. And you're warmer than snow, and I already have a Cloud. So you're Moon. Okay?"
Moon looked away with a pout, but it didn't otherwise protest the name, and it was nearly asleep in his arms again before he tucked it into his bed.
They learned in the middle of the night that Zack really shouldn't have slept on the floor to try to protect a bandaged-up science experiment's sense of personal space; he snored when he was trying to sleep on a hardwood floor with just a wadded-up blanket for padding. Moon flopped and struggled awkwardly, finally making a hoarse frustrated sound and thwapping him over the head with its wing-arm to wake him up. Then it pointed at a spot beside it on the unfolded sofa that doubled as Zack's bed, with an expression that brooked no rebuttal.
"Sorry," Zack mumbled, still groggy as he crawled into bed next to him. "It's just -- it's a small place, I can't sleep sitting up at the table, I'm sorry -- I mean -- somebody's abused you, I sure as hell wouldn't trust some strange soldier who'd just dragged me home with him, I thought I could try to give you some space--"
Moon put a weary hand over his mouth, already half asleep again; Zack sighed a little, wryly, and said, "Good night to you too, then."
In the morning, when Zack was actually awake again, he cursed himself for thoughtlessness, because the wounds in Moon's wings had reopened with its midnight struggles; he cleaned and rebandaged them, and insisted sternly that Moon was to tell him whenever it needed anything, and Zack would do it. He dug a jingle bell out of an old cat toy in the closet and fastened it about Moon's rearmost wing, both as a summons for Moon to call with and as a warning for Zack to hear whether Moon was trying to move around unaided.
Well pleased with himself, Zack went whistling into the kitchen to prepare breakfast; he was less well pleased with his strategy when he reemerged to find Moon with its wings folded awkwardly, its one arm twisted around backwards, unable to see the joint that was tucked underneath the curve of its body but industriously picking blind at the overcomplicated knot on the ribbon that fastened the bell.
"Moon!" he protested, injured. "Leave that alone -- it's there so I can know when you need help!"
Moon, Zack thought a bit tartly, had the most expressive collection of aloof and uncooperatively calculating looks he'd ever seen on anything that wasn't a cat. Zack sighed, and said, "I've got pancakes, you know. If you'll stop fidgeting with my bell, you can have them."
Moon settled its wings back into place quickly, turning toward the scent of the food with a surprising enthusiasm. Apparently, it was hungry -- and very fond of pancakes. And, Zack noted with delight, even more fond of the strawberries and cream he'd topped the pancakes with.
He ended up feeding his own pancakes and berries to Moon because of the desperate, half-starved way it ate -- as though it was still half afraid he would change his mind and take the food away at any moment; damn those scientists and their 'experiments' and 'training'.
Like a hungry baby bird, Moon ate until it was overfull, stretching very carefully on the bed with a distinctly uncomfortable expression on its pretty face; Zack chuckled in rueful sympathy, and brushed Moon's hair back from its eyes with a light hand.
"I'm not going to take anything from you, really," he murmured. "If I give it to you, it's yours. Food, clothing, anything. I'm not a scientist."
Still looking ill and uncomfortable, Moon very carefully nodded, and then closed its eyes, trying to sleep off the discomfort.
It wasn't a big apartment; Zack couldn't afford a big apartment in Sector Three on a patroller's salary, even a Soldier's. It was all one room aside from the bath, the kitchen partially partitioned off with a row of cabinets, and the sofa was the bed. So there wasn't much Zack could do while Moon was resting. Training was out, training meant folding up the sofa-bed and shoving it up against the wall, and the vidscreen would have made noise and flashing lights, and he didn't have a lot of books that weren't training manuals. He wondered if he ought to do something about that; surely Moon would get bored too, looking for something to do while Zack was sleeping after strange shifts...
...and then Zack wondered how exactly his image of the world had changed from 'rescue and bandage the poor kid and send it on its way' to 'keep the kid here at least until I can get it well away from Midgar, the scientists are going to be looking for it, and there's no room in here for it to stretch its wings in secret so maybe I need to look for a bigger place' -- and where the hell had that thought come from?
It was just that the whole thing reeked of scientists using sentient beings for their vivisectionist experiments, and Zack had been trying really damn hard not to think about who Moon's silver-gleaming hair and luminous green eyes and translucent-pale skin reminded him most of, but he was failing more and more badly.
...Maybe that was why he was so determined to protect the poor kid no matter what, so determined to succeed for this one, because all the world had failed the other.
Sitting down crosslegged on the floor, Zack set his PHS to mute and looped its browser through three different anonymizers before starting research on what birds needed in terms of food and vitamins and rest and exercise and general care.
Because whatever it had been mixed with, surgically or genetically or magically, Moon was mostly a person, just as Sephiroth was mostly a person, and...
yeah, Zack had to admit even to himself that he had it bad already.
And the shrinks would have a field day with him, but it didn't have a damn thing to do with displacement of sexual attraction; Moon was as close as it got to sexless, at that. As close as anything so commingled could. Zack didn't want to sleep with Moon -- well, no, he did want to sleep with Moon, but mostly so he wouldn't be on the floor snoring when Moon needed anything.
Moon looked so ...fragile, sleeping. Something about the pallor of the complexion and the soft, childish-round curve of cheek beneath that ragged-cut hair... and its brows were still quirked together in discomfort, that one thin hand cupped to the curve of the pillow, the other wing-arm splayed protectively over the huddle of its truncated body. Zack sighed a little, and wished for healing materia yet again; but in the meantime, he had research to do.
One of the first things Zack learned was that Moon didn't like clothing. Moon was very fond of being warm, and hogged the blankets shamelessly, but clothing was to be wriggled out of and stuffed under something the moment Zack's back was turned.
At first he'd thought it was just objection to the girly color of the sweatsuit; when he'd brought a white set home and tucked Moon into it and left for work, he'd thought it might be accepted. But when he returned afterward, the white sweatsuit had been shoved under the mattress along with the pink one, in a clear expression of distaste, and Moon was perched on the kitchen table wrapped up in blankets and licking at a fudgesicle, with enough sticks for the rest of the box scattered around.
"What the--" Zack stopped short, shook his head, and demanded, "How the heck did you even reach that?"
Moon gave him a disdainful look, turned its shoulder away, and resumed its attentions to the fudgesicle.
He'd been looking forward to having a fudgesicle, too. Zack looked in the freezer, but sure enough, the entire box was empty. It appeared to be the only thing in the freezer that Moon had gone after -- of course, it was also the only thing in the freezer with a box that showed a person putting it into its mouth. That was probably how Moon had decided it was edible in the first place, and it was a good thing it hadn't tried the frozen chicken breasts or something else not designed for straight-from-the-freezer eating, but clearly Moon had never heard of 'moderation' -- understandable, since it had probably never been given anything more than the essentials for life, had never had choice or independence... but still.
"Well," he said ruefully, "I guess that answers the question of whether you like human snacks, doesn't it."
Moon was studiously licking the fudgesicle as though it were the most interesting thing in all the world, and clearly trying to resist the urge to bite, since this was the last one. The sheer rapt attention and the flicker of that soft pink tongue were ...doing things to Zack that he scolded himself fiercely for, because Moon had been abused and Moon was too young and too injured and might not even know what a sex drive was since it wasn't male or female and it didn't need its rescuer thinking things like that--
"Gonna go train some more," Zack managed, and took the fire escape steps up to the top of the building three or four at a time.
By the time the combination of a shift and a half at work and fairly intensive training on the apartment roof had worn him down enough that he couldn't lift his sword steadily, let alone get anything else up, the sun was setting. Zack shivered a little in his sweat-drenched undershirt, and trudged back down the steps, thinking the least sexy thoughts he could manage.
Moon was still licking at the stick of that last fudgesicle, determined to coax the last few molecules of chocolate from the wood. Its expression was pitiful, and completely unintentional about it -- Moon kept looking at the stick, turning it this way and that, trying to find a spot that hadn't been polished completely down to the wood, and then taking a wistful lick or two, and then sighing when that didn't produce a flavor other than wet wood, and taking the stick out to try again.
"Still having that sugar-craving?" Zack asked wryly; Moon looked up at him and nodded, holding up the empty stick and giving it a dissatisfied shake. He chuckled, and said, "Okay, I'll fix it for you, silly."
"Trust me, I'll fix it," he said, and tweaked the tip of Moon's nose lightly. "I'm just awesome that way."
It seemed like the road had gotten about three times longer since he walked up it after his shift, but the ice cream store was still there at the end of it; he bought three boxes of fudgesicles just to be safe, and a couple of bottles of chocolate sauce too. Those he'd definitely have to ration, because he didn't want Moon making itself sick, but he was tall enough to reach the latching shelves above the refrigerator that Moon shouldn't be able to climb onto tables or counters to reach. He figured it'd be fine.
He hadn't figured on how sharp Moon's senses were, or at least its sense of smell; it met him at the door all but keening with eagerness, and only the surrender of one of the boxes of frozen fudgesicles would induce Moon to let him put away the other treats for later. He even had a bit of a struggle on his hands when he tried to give Moon just one of the fudgesicles from the box and take the rest away to freeze.
"I know they taste good," Zack said, feeling almost guilty at how Moon turned its back on him when he returned from confiscating the rest of the box. "But if you don't eat anything but fudgesicles, you won't heal. You'll get worse. You need to have some healthier food with the fudgesicles, all right?"
Moon stuck out a chocolate-stained tongue at him, then bit a piece off the new fudgesicle, and chewed quite avidly, and licked around its mouthful, panting softly with helpless pleasure that blended into need.
It was probably the first time in its life that anyone had ever given it chocolate, come to that, Zack thought, and cursed the scientists yet again. That might have been why Moon had loved the pancakes so much, too -- no sweets, no chocolate, nothing but calculated nutrition with no thought for taste... bastards.
Zack sighed, and went to take a shower. A rather chilly one, at that. Because Moon was so damn expressive about its pleasure even without a voice...
He hurried more than he might have otherwise, between the deliberate chill of the shower and the uncomfortable awareness that Moon had been flapping around more than was good for its wings and might keep on moving too much with the lure of the fudgesicles to deal with. Still scrubbing at dripping hair with another towel slung around his waist, it only took Zack a moment's glance to realize that Moon was sulkily but obediently restraining itself to the last fudgesicle he'd given it, and it was working on polishing every last chocolate-molecule off that stick as well.
"Good," Zack said, relieved and smiling. "That's good, Moon. We'll get you some healthy food later; right now you'd probably burst, wouldn't you."
Moon looked up at him through thick silver lashes, and stared rather fixedly.
"...Huh?" Zack looked down at himself to see if he was bruised or if anything else odd had happened to his body. "Uh... Moon?"
It held out both hand and wing in a mute imperative; perplexed but obedient, Zack walked over and bent to pick Moon up, except that it caught his hands before he could do so. Then Moon trailed its fingers over the curve of a scar, down the shadow of fine dark hair dusting his chest and belly, and it caught his towel and pulled, and Zack yelped and hung on.
"Moon! Don't do that--"
It glared at him, fiercely, and gestured at its own naked body, and tugged on the towel again, brows quirked together.
"Oh, hells," Zack said, and knotted the towel tight around his waist, and sat Moon beside him and cupped a hand that suddenly felt too big and clumsy against the pale, delicate curve of its cheek. "Uh. Yeah, we're ...different. I'm not ...built the same way you are. I'm, uh, a man. --And I don't want to scare you, because I know men hurt you in ways you probably never even learned the words for, and I'm not like them. --Dammit. Physically I'm like them, but mentally I'm not. I'm not going to hurt you, Moon, and I don't want to scare you, so I don't want you to ...have to see things that might upset you. Okay?"
Moon seemed to be thinking about it, green cat-eyes narrowed. It lifted one pale hand and touched the white ridge of the scar again.
"That's just where I got stabbed," Zack said, a little too careless since Moon wasn't going straight into the sex-questions; he realized what it must have sounded like when Moon's eyes shocked wide and it pulled its hands back as though they burned. "Oh -- no, no, I'm fine, it's all better -- it just healed a little odd, that's all. It's called scarring. But it's fine, it doesn't hurt anymore -- you didn't hurt me. Honest. I'm fine, Moon, really."
Clearly skeptical, Moon ran its fingertips faintly over the old, faded scar, barely a ghost of touch, watching him close for any flinching or pain -- and obviously the poor thing did already know pain, and what to look for. And how to provoke it, too; when the faint touch didn't produce results, it jabbed at the old wound sharply as it stared unblinking at his face to see the reaction. Zack chuckled a little despite himself, and held Moon's hand against his chest, and said, "I told you it doesn't hurt."
Moon sniffed its opinion of his trustworthiness about certain matters, and poked again just to be sure, and then touched a different scar with the same tentative, delicate exploration of that first contact.
"Monster fight," Zack said. "Years ago. It's okay."
Moon considered his other scars for a moment, fingertips barely brushing against his waist, and then it brushed a light fingertip over his nipple; he jerked despite himself, and had to fight back both a blush and another reaction at the same time. "Uh," he managed, less than intelligently. "That's. Um. You have those too. Everybody does..."
Moon's were much paler, though, a faint delicate pink against the shell-pale skin; Zack's were dark against his tan, and -- despite his best intentions -- peaking at the combination of lingering shower-wet, cool air, and Moon's maddeningly innocent exploration of his body. Staring at it intently, Moon touched it again, and Zack shuddered.
"Uh. Please don't...?"
Brows quirked in bewilderment, Moon touched its own nipple, confused that Zack seemed to respond in discomfort to a touch there and yet was unbothered by old wounds.
"Oh, gods," Zack said thickly, and caught Moon's hands and held them still. "How do I explain... That's... those are... um. Women's give milk for children. Men... don't really need them, except that... they stand up when it's cold, or wet, or ...in sexual attraction. So playing with them is... kind of intimate. Kind of really intimate."
But first Moon looked bewildered, and then hurt, pulling its hands back and trying to hide its face from him. It knew nothing of body-shame or nakedness, but it clearly understood his 'please don't' along with 'intimate.'
"...Dammit, I'm sorry," Zack said, cursing himself for an insensitive fool. "I'm not saying I don't want you here, I'm not saying you've done anything wrong -- you're just -- you're learning, I know that. You don't know things. I ...know someone else who was ...in just about exactly your situation. It's not your fault you don't know things. And someone has to teach you in order for you to learn, and I'm one of about four people I trust in this whole damn city who won't take advantage of what you don't know, and won't sell you back to Shinra. So -- um -- ask. Anything you want to ask. Just... don't be hurt if I ...react kind of oddly, because of the things I know, and that you don't. It's not your fault," he added, lamely. "It's just... do you even know what 'embarrassed' is? I get that way sometimes..."
When he let go of Moon's hands, though, Moon pulled the blanket up and turned away, head bowed.
Zack swore under his breath, and followed the pale curve of one shoulder beneath the blanket, down to the flex of an elbow and then that delicate hand, and he held Moon's hand close between his own. "I'm sorry," he said, aching. "I didn't mean to hurt you or shame you. I'm so sorry. What can I do to make it not hurt?"
This time the look Moon gave him was purely bewildered, and Zack realized it was probably the first time anyone had ever apologized to Moon, or asked how to make it feel better. He bit down hard on his first few impulses -- the first was to swear, the second was to offer another fudgesicle, the third was to go firebomb the Shinra lab wing -- and he scooted closer and put an arm about Moon and rubbed its side through the blanket, cursing himself for an insensitive asshole every moment of it.
Moon held itself rigid for a trembling moment, and then realized that being touched that way really didn't hurt, regardless of whether the touch actually did anything to help any aches left by Zack's earlier thoughtlessness. It settled against his side cautiously, and then rested its head against his shoulder, and then relaxed more deeply against him -- but it was careful not to touch him again, careful to keep its hand to itself, tucked behind the shelter of the long wing that it hid itself behind.
Zack sighed deeply, and lifted Moon with a tender, guilty care, and settled it into his lap, blanket and all. Once Moon had realized that no other unexpected shifting was to take place, it settled its head against his chest from its new position, and rested its hand carefully atop the tangle of bandaged wings, so as not to offer an unwanted touch again.
Quietly, Zack lifted Moon's hand and curved it against his cheek, and leaned his head into the touch, and then he stroked the fingers of his other hand through the feathers of Moon's wings. "Is this all right?" he asked. "Is touching like this all right?"
Moon nodded against his shoulder, and lifted its chin enough to study the arch of the tendons it traced in Zack's throat, and the shaggy tangle of dark hair it cautiously stroked fingertips through. The texture of his hair surprised it; Moon's hair was much softer and finer, and lay smooth and sleek and not sticking out in any direction including up.
Moon was fascinated by how Zack's thick hair stood out on its own. It tugged at a particularly stubborn spike, smiling in astonished delight when the tuft of wayward hair sprung straight back up when released.
"Mine's just weird that way," Zack admitted, sheepish. "Most people's hair goes down."
Moon flicked a fingertip back and forth across that one dark spike, playfully teasing at its independence; Zack grinned and settled more comfortably into the sofa-bed-pillows, cradling Moon's still-too-slight body, offering gentle attentiveness to the way the wing-feathers would lie most smoothly around the bandages. Moon paused in its toying with his hair, blinking for a moment, and then arching into his hands with a needy sound.
"You like that, huh?" he asked, and rubbed more firmly. "Just relax. Let my hands find where it hurts; you don't have to push toward me, you might strain things that way..."
Moon touched his cheek and drew his attention down to that scar on his chest again, then looked up at him with questioning eyes.
"...Do you mean where do I hurt?" At Moon's nod, Zack couldn't help himself; he hugged the slight figure close, brushing a kiss against its forehead. Silly, selfless thing, its whole life spent in a lab, and its very first reaction to an offer of comfort was to learn to 'pay' for it in kind, since nothing could be offered freely without some kind of test expected later -- "I'm not hurting," Zack said, and held Moon's gaze in order to be extra clear. "I'm just fine, and I'm not going to ask anything from you as payment. But you're not used to bandages and having half your wings pinned up, and it's pulling at your muscles, and I can help that a little. So you just relax and let me help, okay?"
It wasn't entirely content with that answer, but it lacked the words to protest; it settled into his lap and placed a hand over his, following the patterns he rubbed with idle curiosity. After a few moments, though, it grew restless again, and picked up a well-polished fudgesicle stick, and looked at him.
"Oh, no you don't," Zack said, laughing. "You've had enough of those for one day. Save some for tomorrow--"
Moon shook its head, and poked Zack in the lip with it, and when that didn't work it pulled one of his hands up and pinched his fingers around the stick and looked at him expectantly.
"...You mean, you'll let me have one?" Moon nodded firmly; Zack chuckled. Gracious of it to offer me my own snacks... I wonder if there's something feline in Moon after all. "Thank you," he said, with an almost straight face. "I think I'll take you up on that."
Moon stole several bites of his fudgesicle, by coming up with 'distractions' like pointing the other way. But Zack got over half of it, and Moon even felt generous enough to let him lick the stick clean by himself.
Besides, its attention had been diverted again -- by the difference in texture between the hair on Zack's head and the hair on his chest, and the way the fine dark hair on his arms curved to match his arm and didn't stand out like the rest, and the trail of soft darkness that led down into the bathtowel. Moon had no bodily hair at all; it was part of what made the creature look so startlingly young, despite its otherwise inhuman build that ought to have been enough of a reminder that he wasn't dealing with the usual visual cues.
Zack decided he needed to try to find a bookstore on his lunch break tomorrow. ...Preferably one in another sector.
He'd come up with the driest manual he could find in the medical section, not the adult section -- it was called Reproductive Anatomy and it was full of clinical charts and long words and line drawings with an occasional dispassionate photo. But Moon was so warm against his side, and so openly curious, and so fearless with innocence, and so genuinely perplexed... Zack tried hard to keep his attention on sounding out the words Moon pointed at, and explaining diagrams.
He talked about puberty and maturity and ovulation and ejaculate and conception and implantation and trimesters and fetal development and delivery and lactation, and he barely even stopped for breath, because Moon's brow was crinkled in absolute bemusement, and it kept taking little bewildered looks back and forth between the book and its own body and Zack's. When he'd gotten into infant development, though, his luck ran out; Moon put fingertips over his lips to still him, then flipped back a couple of chapters to the illustrations of the differences between male and female anatomy.
Moon understood the illustration of the pregnant mother's distended abdomen had nothing to do with them; it touched the drawn man's flat chest, and pressed a hand against its own flat, still sharp-ribbed breastbone. But then it touched the male drawing's groin, and then the female's, and gestured at its nest of wings, and looked up at Zack in expectation of an answer.
"You're ...unique, Moon," Zack said, as gently as he could. "You're not quite like the people in the pictures."
Moon rolled its eyes and made a beckoning gesture, clearly waiting for something it didn't already know.
"I'm not sure how exactly you're different," Zack mumbled, uncomfortable. "You're ...kind of both, or maybe kind of neither. I don't know. You're more like a man, with your shoulders and your ...chest, and the range of the sounds you make. But you're not ...entirely like a man."
Moon was clearly not satisfied with that answer, and flipped several more pages, to the illustration of a man and a woman standing beside each other. Both of them showed body hair, and Zack had explained about puberty and physical maturity being a prerequisite for reproduction; Moon shifted to part its wings, and Zack caught its wrist hastily before it could become more explicit about pointing out the differences.
"I know," he yelped. "I know. You're ...different. I don't know why. I... think it might have something to do with... what the scientists did to you, what they did to my friend, in order to ...create you. You're just not like anyone else, Moon..."
It flipped forward several pages, to the section discussing intercourse, and pointed at particular terms in the text. Attraction. Sexuality. Desire. Arousal. It pointed at Zack's groin, just to make sure the point was well beaten in; Zack wished he could sink through the floor.
"That just happens, in the mornings," he managed, half strangled. "I... deal with it and... go on with business, and..."
Moon pointed again. Self-image, his finger said. Normal. Abnormal. Deviant. Dysfunction.
"Whoa," Zack said, catching Moon's hand before it could find any worse words. "Slow down -- Moon, there's nothing wrong with you. I don't -- I don't know what you are, what made you ...different, but you're not 'deviant'. You're just not... shaped the same."
Identity, its fingertip insisted. Social norms. Approved. Aberrant. Identification.
"No, no, no," Zack said, and flipped the page just to make sure. "You don't just get your identity from your dangly bits and what you do with them. Okay? You have an identity. You're my Moon. I don't know the word for what you are, but you're a perfectly good ...whatever you are. You don't need one of those to be acceptable. Or the other set either. Whatever you have is fine."
Moon looked up at him, slit pupils unnervingly intent, worrying at its lower lip with sharp white teeth. Then it flipped another page, silver brows crooked together, and traced a fingertip over an illustration's caption.
Sexual intercourse is an integral part of a healthy, loving relationship, the caption said. In addition to its purpose in reproduction, sexual contact can be used to deepen both physical and emotional bonds.
"Oh gods," Zack said, and shut his eyes tight against the plaintive look Moon gave him. Because he didn't have the faintest idea how to explain something like it's not that you're unattractive, because it ought to be illegal the way you eat those fudgesicles, but the point here is that I shouldn't even if you want me to, because this is one of those relationships that people lock people up over. And none of it's actually your fault but that doesn't change the fact that I really, really shouldn't because somebody made you into a what, not a who, and I rescued you from a life on the streets where you had been picking at garbage like a wild animal, and the notion of informed consent among equals is pretty laughable under these circumstances, and yet you don't deserve to be hurt the way you would be if I tried to tell you no on account of any of this...
Moon made a sound of distress, and tugged at a stray tendril of Zack's hair until he screwed up his courage to look down again.
Expression. Education. Love. Closeness. Pleasure. Intimacy. Giving. Relationship. It touched its voiceless throat, and then its finger poked at expression several more times.
"Moon," Zack said helplessly, "you don't have to have sex with someone just because you can't talk to them."
Moon gave him a half-lidded glare that was so clearly a don't be stupid that Zack thought it rather made Zack's own point for him. It poked him in the nose to be sure it had his attention, then tapped the page firmly.
Pleasure. Desire. Want. Giving. Shared.
It stared up at him, expecting some gesture of comprehension; Zack shivered a little despite himself, and stroked his fingers through Moon's soft, spidersilk-fine hair.
"We need a way for you to tell me if you don't like something," Zack said, and still couldn't quite believe he was thinking about it.
The way Moon absolutely lit up, like sunlight breaking through stormclouds, made it a little more clear: yeah, that's what I want to see. I wonder what it is Moon wants from me...
When he tried to go for the bell again, though, Moon would have none of it.
"It's a safety thing," Zack said, and wondered exactly how Moon could manage to be so stubbornly clingy with only one hand and a lot of wings. "I don't want to hurt you or scare you, so I need some way to hear your no even though you can't say it, and--"
With a fierce glower, Moon swatted him across the head with that long primary wing, feathers ruffling through Zack's hair.
"...well, okay, that works too," Zack admitted.
Moon must have taken that to mean everything was settled, because the next thing Zack knew, there were fingers wriggling down the front of his pants. He made a supremely undignified noise and caught Moon's wrist quickly. That primary wing came up again, ready for indignantly feathered smiting, and Zack crooked the other arm over his head in sheepish self-defense as he tried to work Moon's hand out of his pants without damaging anything vital in the process.
Moon couldn't shape words, but its growl was certainly vivid enough.
"Slower," Zack said, feeling his face burn. "Just... a little slower, okay? There's this thing called foreplay, and it's really pretty nice if you give it a chance."
Apparently, 'play' was a good word. With a quick flick, the primary wing refurled itself at its side; Moon's irritation at being thwarted had transformed itself into eager curiosity in the blink of an eye.
"Right," Zack said, careful to keep his voice steady and soothing, because that wing was definitely strong enough to knock him cross-eyed if he made Moon too upset. "Okay. So. I'm not going to get the bell, but there is one thing I think we're probably going to need, and I promise I'll be right back..." He eased Moon onto the sofa, then hurried to the bathroom and dug through the cabinet.
Too damn long since I had anyone here-- where'd I leave-- there. Good.
Supplies safely in hand, he waved the tube at Moon, who was still bright-eyed and curious.
When Moon took the tube and flicked the lid open and sniffed at it, Zack had to clear his throat a couple of times to make sure his voice wasn't going to do anything embarrassing. "Um. Not flavored," he managed. "Sometimes they are, but, uh, not this time..."
Moon gestured toward the kitchen, then held up a fingertip and licked the air above it; it startled a laugh out of him. "No, I haven't tried using fudgesicles as sex aids," Zack mumbled, feeling his cheeks burn. "For one thing, it'd be awfully cold. Warm's generally better than cold, at least when you're... uh... starting out..."
Moon put the tube back into Zack's hand, and looked at him expectantly.
No pressure or anything, Zack thought to himself, fighting back a slightly hysterical need to laugh. None at all.
"Let's start with the foreplay?" Zack suggested, and bent close enough to kiss Moon's lower lip before it could begin to pout at him.
He'd already realized that eagerness was not likely to be a problem; but he hadn't fully appreciated just how different the combination of innocent curiosity and absolute fearlessness would be. Zack had taken a certain amount of pride in the gentleness he offered to his first-time lovers; but then, they'd been human. And they'd known that sometimes it hurt. That had always brought at least a little uncertainty before, and he'd been careful to watch for it, careful to wait and adjust to their needs.
Moon had no fear at all, and no shyness, and no shame. It was almost terrifying, trying to keep up -- terrifying, and exhilarating at the same time. Because Moon's innocence was so unhesitatingly entwined with its curiosity, and its sheer enthusiasm at new discoveries. The way first surprise and then smugness tangled into its delight in exploration -- the way Moon crooned deep in its throat when it wrung a noise of pleasure out of Zack... he'd never thought of himself as inhibited, but Moon was completely wanton with its innocent and yet utterly shameless pleasures.
It liked licking him, for one thing. And sniffing. And petting. For someone with only one hand, Moon managed to get fingers into a lot of unexpected places. And then there were the wings -- tickle-soft and animal-hot and somehow everywhere all at once. And it was completely enchanted by his erection -- it delighted in playing with him there, because Moon took a smug, possessive type of glee in making him react. He whimpered and writhed under the touch of those maddeningly curious fingers, gasped and pushed needily into the down-soft heat nestled between the wings, choked back a curse when it purred around a smug mouthful of him...
Moon was clearly disappointed when he came, because it had lost its most convenient handle for wringing all those fascinating noises out of Zack. When he could breathe again, he cupped a shaky hand against its cheek and tried to explain about the need for release, and recharging time.
The notion of 'recharging' got its attention. Moon grabbed Zack's 'handle' and positioned it illustratively, then gestured at the clock, then drummed its fingers impatiently against his belly.
Once Zack could manage to stop wheezing with the combination of exhaustion and laughter, he said, "I think you're going to kill me, Moon, but gods, I'm going to die happy."
It was a damned good thing that the next day was a Saturday; Zack had given up any pretext of setting his alarm somewhere around the fourth or fifth time, and surrendered himself completely to Moon's fascinated delight in the process. He was proud of coaxing out what it took to get Moon to reach its climax -- it hadn't been easy to work around that much distraction, but he'd managed.
He worried that it might have hurt the still-healing bones in its wings with the thrashing, but Moon didn't settle down for long -- it wanted him to do that again, right away, and Zack spared a moment to thank the gods that he had two hands to work with when he was too wrung out to respond in other ways as quickly as Moon would have liked.
Finally, even Moon's insatiable curiosity had given way to sheer exhaustion. Zack cleaned them both up as well as he could manage when he was groggy with fatigue; Moon had fallen sound asleep by the time he tossed the washcloth to one side and pulled the blankets over them both.
The next morning, he was warm and still groggy when something cold and sticky woke him more abruptly than he'd expected. Blearily, Zack scrubbed at his face, then tried to ungum his eyes long enough to focus on the cold sticky problem.
Moon was sitting on his chest with a half-eaten fudgesicle. It was dripping. Zack groaned.
"You're obsessed, you know that?" he asked. Moon tipped its head to one side, waiting for him to make a point, and he chuckled despite himself. "Okay, okay. What's up?"
Moon promptly put the fudgesicle in his mouth.
Zack took a bite and chewed, then offered the fudgesicle back; Moon pushed it back to his lips, and Zack blinked in surprise, then started to grin.
"Looks like I must've been good last night if I earned one of these, huh?"
Moon pulled the reproductive anatomy book off the side table and started flipping through for words, still perched on Zack's chest. He finished his fudgesicle in a few quick bites, then lifted Moon over to the bed so he could prop himself up on his elbows enough to follow the fingertip pointing at the book.
Moon couldn't seem to find the word it was looking for, though; it flipped through several pages, scanning without touching the words, before it finally found its target. Moon patted Zack on the head, ruffling his bed-wild spikes even further, then pointed with contented solemnity:
"Yours, huh?" Zack stroked his fingers through Moon's nestled wingfeathers. "I'm not so sure about that. I thought you were mine."
Pleasant, Moon's finger said for a moment, and Feeling, and then it found Good. With an impish grin, it went back to Mine.
"I'm yours because I make you feel good?"
Moon nodded, and patted Zack's head again.
"I suppose I can live with that," Zack said. "But you're not getting away with just eating fudgesicles for the rest of your life. Breakfast means protein and vitamins and stuff too. Especially with all that exertion we just did!" He stretched until he heard his spine creak, then scratched at the back of his neck and said, "Omelets for breakfast, or would that be cannibalism for you?"
Moon jabbed him with the fudgesicle stick, then licked it pointedly.
"Omelets it is, then," Zack said, grinning, and ducked when Moon threw the book at his head.
There were still a lot of questions he didn't know how to answer, of course. Questions like who was going to be hunting for an escaped experiment that looked too much like his boss, and what had they done to the poor kid, and was it cannibalism for him to feed eggs to something with that many wings, or was it more seraph-like than bird-like, or Seph-like, or whatever.
In the meantime, though, he had answers enough to start with. Whatever else Moon was or wasn't, it was still warm, and curious, and affectionate, and still in need of someone to protect it. Protecting people was what Zack was good at.
Anything he could do to stick one more roadblock in the path of Hojo's experimentation was pretty much by definition a good thing to do. When it also meant keeping someone safe and sheltered and not in the labs anymore, that was an extra bonus. Clearly Moon approved of Zack's methods as well; he'd gotten at least half of that fudgesicle this morning. Fudgesicles seemed to be a pretty reliable indicator of approval in Moon's voiceless lexicon.
One of these days he'd have to figure out some way to get the words for what else Moon could and couldn't eat in a way that didn't produce demands for fudgesicles instead.
...Maybe he should make some bacon and toast to go with the eggs, though, just in case it was cannibalism.