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Mistake Number One

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Just act naturally, he'd told himself.

Like any normal SOLDIER would. Sure, normal was the furthest descriptive word anyone could ever use for SOLDIER considering what they could do. But it was certainly more acceptable by comparison of the nightmare virus running in what used to be his veins. What they are now, he couldn't say. Doesn't know the lingo, never thought that far into anything that technical. Science, devices, engineering- that's all not him and it's never been him. He'd always just taken things at face value. Just went with it.

And maybe that's for the best right then.

Because if he thinks about it any harder, knows anymore about himself and his new body, he might really scream.

Instead, he's gone and ripped the bathroom door off the hinges much to his dismay. Mistake number one.

"Zack? You okay down there?"

"Ye-Yeah! Yeah, Spike, I'm good!" He shouts it into the tiny hallway, naked and unkempt and he.. really should have just asked for a towel instead of deciding it wouldn't be that big a deal for him to just grab one. That the closet had been only right next door to the bathroom and would only take a second.

But every second he's not moving, not doing anything for himself makes his skin tingle and crawl and he just needs to keep himself busy. Needs to get used to this new body. A new body that at least doesn't smell too clean now. Too sterile. Now, it smells of shampoo and conditioner and soap. Sure, it's not as if he needs it anymore- but that's not really the point either. He needs it for other reasons just the same as he needs it for something to do. He'll be fine, he keeps telling himself. He's got this.

The Strifes just... might need a new bathroom door.

But maybe he could put it back. Maybe he could have also attempted it after he changed into new clothes. That thought doesn't occur to him until he could already hear footsteps thudding down the steep steps to the cellar. Mistake number two.

He raises his head just in time to catch Cloud's eye as he freezes with the door in hand like that'll make it any less obvious what transpired. Cloud stares at him for an uncomfortable period of time before Zack clears his throat, adjusting the weight of the door in his hands with a, "So, I might need just a little more time to reacquaint myself."

Cloud sputters, face red, before he shakes his head and smiles halfway between amused and something else entirely. "I'll say. Don't worry- I won't tell my mom."

"Tell your mom, huh. Man.. Been a while since I've had to worry over something like tattling."

He tries for a grin to meet Cloud's which appears more and more aloof by the second. He's staring again and Zack shifts uncomfortably while he carefully goes to place the door on what bare amount of wall space is available to set it against for now.

Mistake number three.

Cloud's eyes return to him now that he's not obscured from the door so much and his face which had been flustered before... His expression just falls. It only occurs to Zack then that a towel maybe wasn't so wise either, even as Cloud cautiously approaches. Draws a hand up towards Zack's chest to touch before he even realizes what he's doing and pauses, letting it hover awkwardly instead.

"It must have hurt a lot when it happened." When he changed. When he became something else entirely. It would be easy to brush it off, to tell him about when he'd first become SOLDIER instead. That had been a change, too. But instead Zack shakes his head slowly. Bites his lip, barely tasting silicone.

"I'm sure it would have. But I.. still don't remember." Probably better off.

Cloud nods quietly in answer before he starts to pull away. But he's stopped by Zack's hand catching his. It's tight- almost too tight at first before he readjusts his grip and then it's barely there and for a moment, there's real fear in Zack's eyes. But when he sees Cloud's not wincing in pain, his whole body slouches in relief.

"Cloud.. No matter what happened back there, you got me out of there and that's all that matters. I just wanted you to know that."

He doesn't miss the way Cloud swallows roughly. But he also doesn't miss the way Cloud squeezes his hand back gently in return or the small, teasing smile that breaks the tension as he offers to go grab the toolbox. There's no mistake about any of that.