Characters: Sephiroth, Zack
Word count: 840
Prompt: Sephiroth/Zack - nightmares - lay your headdown/go to sleep/to the rhythm of the war drums
Summary: Patience. Friendship. Quiet. What more do you need to chase the bad dreams away?
Sephiroth was awake even before the knock came, sliding soundlessly out of bed with a grim frown.
“Seph?” a familiar voice murmured before he could get far, quietly enough that even a First Class might have slept through it, and Sephiroth found himself relaxing at once, bypassing the wall where his sword hung in favour of pulling open the door for the man on the other side.
“Hey,” Zack greeted with a tired smile, leaning against the doorjamb in a faded shirt and pair of loose pants. His feet were bare. “How’s it going?”
“Zack,” Sephiroth said, stepping back automatically to let Zack in. “Is there any particular reason you’re skulking around the halls after curfew?”
“Practicing my sleepwalking?” Zack tried, though his grin lacked conviction even by Sephiroth’s standards. He cocked his sheepishly head to one side. “Mind if I invade your room for a bit?”
You already have, Sephiroth would normally have said, only it seemed somehow inappropriate to fall back on sarcasm tonight.
“Go ahead,” he said instead, and watched with something approaching worry as Zack ambled in and took a seat at the head of his bed without a single sly comment. He shut the door and turned towards Zack. “Was there something you needed?”
“Nah,” Zack denied, his headshake rueful but honest. “Just some company.”
Sephiroth failed to see what kind of company he could possibly provide, but Zack was still smiling at him and he couldn’t find it in himself to argue. “I see,” he murmured. “Well what can I do for you, then?” He winced even as he said it, the words coming out too flat, too… impersonal, but Zack, as ever, seemed to understand regardless.
“You could sit down,” Zack suggested noncommittally, swiveling so his feet were on the pillows and the other half of Sephiroth’s bed was pointedly empty behind him. A flash of the normal Zack flicked in his eyes as he added, “I promise not to tease you.”
“Now I know there’s something wrong,” Sephiroth shot back dryly, though he sat regardless. Zack leaned immediately back against him with a contented sigh, his skin warm even through the thin cotton of his shirt.
“Zack?” Sephiroth murmured carefully, feeling woefully inadequate for dealing with this kind of situation. That didn’t often happen around Zack these days. “You seem… out of sorts this evening.”
Zack’s head tipped back with a gentle exhalation. “That obvious, huh?” he asked, though he didn’t sound particularly put out. His shoulders shrugged against Sephiroth’s back. “Nothing serious – just having a bit of trouble sleeping tonight.”
Zack had just returned from an assignment in Wutai, Sephiroth recalled. He frowned slightly. “The mission went poorly?”
“Huh? Nah, nothing like that. Just brought back a few bad memories, you know?”
He did, for once. “It’s not unexpected that being there would remind you of the war,” Sephiroth told him, the phantom roll of long ago war drums coming far too easily to his own mind at the thought. “It often does so for me as well.”
“Yeah,” Zack sighed. “Lucky us.”
Sephiroth didn’t quite know what to say to that so he let the silence come, heavy but not quite unwelcome in the dim. The room was very still.
“Thanks,” said Zack suddenly, and Sephiroth blinked in surprise.
He could hear the smile in Zack’s voice, soft and sincere. “For understanding.”
“You would do the same for me,” Sephiroth answered simply, knowing it as true even as he spoke.
Zack’s breath puffed out on a gentle laugh. “That sounds like something I’d say to you,” he observed lightly.
“You do occasionally have moments of validity,” Sephiroth murmured, relieved to feel things returning to the state that passed as normal when Zack was around.
“From you, I’ll take that as a compliment.” Zack yawned then, the tension melting out of his shoulders and leaving him comfortably slumped against Sephiroth’s back. “Mm, sorry,” he murmured, not sounding at all apologetic.
“If you’re tired, perhaps you should retire to your own quarters,” Sephiroth suggested, ignoring the part of him that seemed strangely… loathe to let Zack leave.
“And have my nightmare beasties come back?” Zack demanded, sounding the most Zack-like as he had all night. “Who’ll protect me if you’re not around?”
“They’re just dreams. They can’t do anything to you that’s any worse than the things you’ve already survived,” Sephiroth pointed out, and was rewarded by a sleepy chuckle.
“Gee thanks, Seph.” Zack yawned again, the words slurring into a sleepy mumble. “If I dream about Wutai soldiers armed with mako boosters I am so blaming you.”
“Go to sleep Zack,” Sephiroth directed, unable to curb the fond, slightly exasperated smile on his face.
“Mm-kay. Night Seph.”
“Goodnight,” Sephiroth responded, then sat silently for a long time, listening to the sound of Zack’s breathing even and slow and figuring that this was more than worth the loss of a night’s sleep.
And if Zack’s nightmares resurfaced during the night, Sephiroth was pleased to see they never held him for long.