For the next two months, Zack did everything he could think of to warm the hearts of Sephiroth and Rydia. He learned as much as he could from others about the two. Rydia, he learned, although very secretive, was the daughter of a major financial supporter of Shinra, which was why the teachers didn't bother her about the constant usage of her cloak. She also preferred reading large books to physical exertion, which led Zack to wonder what she was doing in the SOLDIER program.
Sephiroth though, Zack couldn't find much on, although he did visit the nurse and doctor an unusual amount of times.
Both together though seemed to grow close, even though neither said much. Opting to simply enjoy each other's company.
Finally after a month of making faces, getting in trouble and sticking close to his two targets, he finally got them to stop glaring at him. They both seemed to finally accept the fact that he would simply not go away.
Than at the end of two months Zack was able to crack a smile out of Rydia. Even she had looked bored as Mr. Heibert listed all the elements on the periodic table, their atomic weights, states and the family they belonged to. Sephiroth even looked bored, propping his head up with his elbow, his hand cupped around the side of his face as he sat next to Rydia.
Zack sitting at the front of the class, due to his frequent upsets of the class, waited for Mr. Heibert to turn his back and then began imitating the teacher as he droned on. The other classmates began snickering. Zack still continued and then stopped suddenly when Mr. Heibert turned toward him.
Quickly, Zack scribbled the words 'Help us! We're dying of boredom!!' and drew a picture of a bunch of kids screaming as a another figure representing Mr. Heibert lectured them. Over top of the scene he drew a figure of a super hero with a 'c' on its cape. Sticking a piece of tape at the top Zack carefully hid the paper in his hand. As usual Mr. Heibert came over.
"Zack. Do I need to send you to the Dean again? Or would you prefer to listen?" The science teacher asked.
"Sir, I'm listening. And might I say that you are doing a magnificent job of explaining the properties of Argon and Krypton and all the other Noble gases." Zack smiled winningly and clapped the teacher on the back, the paper sticking automatically.
Mr. Heibert frowned and then turning away, went back to his lecture. The class burst out laughing and than stopped when Mr. Heibert turned to them. Seeing nothing, he turned back to the diagram of the periodic table on the chalkboard.
Again the class burst out laughing, and turning, Zack say Rydia even smile and then put a hand in front of her mouth to stifle a chuckle. Sephiroth unfortunately looked like he had fallen asleep.
"Alright!" Mr. Heibert turned to a girl at the front of the class, who happened to be the teacher's pet. "What has Zack done now, Christie?"
The girl bit on her lips and then pointed to the teacher's back.
Mr. Heibert immediately reached behind himself and feeling the paper dangling there, tore it from his back. Taking one look at it, Mr. Heibert came over to Zack and grabbing him by the ear dragged him out of the class.
Once again, Zack was taken to the Dean's office. His punishment this time, was to peel all the potatoes need for the supper. Zack didn't mind though, he had accomplished what he had wanted.
The next day, after finishing yet another job of peeling, Zack sat down to lunch and was further rewarded.
"Why do you keep doing that?" Rydia asked. Both her and Sephiroth were watching him intently.
"Uhm... well... You guys are just always frowning. I figured you could use a few good laughs." Zack answered, thoroughly tickled that they were actually talking to him.
"Why? No one else cares." Sephiroth asked, his soft voice shocking Zack.
Wow! They're actually talking to me! Zack mentally patted himself on the back. "Well that's just it, someone should. And my ma always taught me never to leave even the smallest and grumpiest of kids out of the game." He shrugged like it was no big deal.
"Do you like peeling potatoes?" Rydia asked still not understanding.
"Not really." Zack confessed.
"Then why do you keep allowing yourself to get in trouble?" Sephiroth asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Well like I said. If I can get you guys to be happy, even for just a bit, than I don't mind having to peel potatoes." Zack answered sincerely, running a hand through his spiky hair.
Rydia and Sephiroth looked from each other to Zack for a few minutes, and then seemingly coming to a decision they both returned to their meal.
Zack got the distinct impression then that he had finally been accepted.
Over the next two weeks Zack was able to learn more about his newfound friends, he even found enough courage to ask Sephiroth about himself.
Mrs. Lockport had left them all alone in the library to chose a book. Rydia already had a book and as usual kept everyone from seeing exactly what it was she was reading. Sephiroth had chosen a book on the history of weaponry and sat next to her. Zack held a comic that he had borrowed from Sam and sat across the table from the two.
"So, Sephiroth... " Zack paused, when Sephiroth looked up disgustedly. "Can I ask you something?"
Sephiroth nodded and returned his gaze to the book in his hands. Rydia paid neither of them any heed.
"So where are you from?" Zack asked smoothly.
"Here." Sephiroth didn't even look up from his book.
"You mean Midgar?"
When Sephiroth didn't answer, Zack took that as an affirmative and continued, "So what do your parents do? My ma stays at home, but my pa is a farmer."
"My mother is dead. As for my father... who knows?" Sephiroth stated, his tone of voice suggesting that it was no big deal.
"Wow. That sucks. I mean I'm sorry." Zack quickly amended. Sephiroth only shrugged. Zack stayed quiet for a while when another question sparked his curiosity.
"So what's with your eyes? I thought only SOLDIER's had that." Zack asked bluntly.
Sephiroth looked quickly up, the short silver spikes of his hair moving with the motion. Something that Zack thought might be fear, crossed Sephiroth's eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it had come, leaving Zack to wonder if it had ever been.
"I don't know." Sephiroth replied and tuned back to his book.
Zack knew he was lying, but didn't press the subject, knowing that Sephiroth wasn't the most vocal about anything. Instead he leaned over the table to try and see what Rydia was so engrossed in.
"Whatca reading?" he asked and was forced to pull his head back or have his nose caught as Rydia slammed the book closed.
"It's none of your concern." The anger in her voice mirroring the flashing fire in her eyes, the red flecks standing out more than usual.
"Just a question." Zack put up both hands.
"Well don't do it again." Her voice softened slightly, but she didn't open the book until Zack began reading his comic.
Looking back up, Zack questioned again, "What about you Rydia? I know about your dad, but what's your mom do?"
Rydia sighed, slowly closing the book before her. "I don't know. My mother left us a couple of years ago."
"Oh." Zack could only answer; the soft look in Rydia's eyes was troubling.
"Why would your mother do that?" Sephiroth's voice shockingly intoned.
Rydia stared down at the book in her hands. "Because she and my father didn't get along very well."
"But she was your mother..." Sephiroth started in confusement, but then let the subject drop when Zack shook his head.
Silence reigned and slowly one by one they went back to reading.
A month later Sephiroth sat with his friends in the mess hall. Around them other children laughed and talked. He played with his food a bit and then passed the plate over to Zack as he discovered Zack hungrily watching his motions, but was too polite to ask the question, 'Are you goina eat that?'
I have odd friends. Sephiroth thought to himself.
Looking to Rydia, he found her slowly putting food in her mouth, a far off look in her eyes as she mulled over something. Sephiroth was thankful for the companionship that she had always offered. She had made it clear too that the feeling was mutual.
Zack on the other hand had been an annoyance at first. Now Sephiroth had a grudging respect for the spiky brown haired boy. He had been persistent, when all of their other classmates had chosen to ignore them. His laughter and cheerfully demeanour at times was still annoying, but Sephiroth was thankful for it none the less.
"Hey Zack, its snowing!" A thin, brown haired boy with freckles ran up to their table. Sephiroth remembered that his name was Brad.
"Snowing?" Zack asked, looking confused.
"Come on! The rest of us are going to have a snowball fight." Brad replied excitedly.
"Ah... Sure... I guess." Zack replied, still confused.
"Great! We'll be waiting." Brad then ran off to another table.
"What's snow?" Zack muttered.
"Technically its frozen rain." Rydia said softly, having apparently come out of her thoughts.
"How would that be fun though?" Sephiroth wondered out loud. This was the first year that he had been allowed to even see what the outside had even been like, since Professor Hojo had made it clear that it was of no importance.
Rydia stood. "Well I'm not sure how much fun it is, but it is nice to look at." She then slowly walked out of the mess hall and made her way out of the Academy.
Sephiroth and Zack followed suit and flanked her as they made their way outside.
When they opened the last set of double doors they were greeted with a white wonderland. Their classmates and older students were hurling balls of the white stuff back and forth across the courtyard at each other.
A piece of the snow fell on Sephiroth's nose and he snorted at the sudden cold and wet feeling that accompanied the piece.
"Wow!" Zack breathed. "This is snow?"
"Wow! We never had stuff like this back in Gongaga." Zack bent down and picked up a handful of the snow. "Its cold!?" he said, surprised.
"How come you know so much about it?" Sephiroth asked Rydia, who had her arms outstretched in an attempt to catch some of the flakes.
"I used to live near Niblehiem, in the mountains. It snows a lot, but I've never been allowed to go outside and play in it." Rydia replied, letting her arms fall to her sides.
"So this is what they mean by a white Christmas!?" Zack pondered.
"Christmas?" Sephiroth asked.
"You don't know what Christmas is!?" Zack's eyes nearly popped out of his head.
"Holy shit!" Zack exclaimed as Sephiroth shook his head.
Getting over his surprise, Zack explained, "Well its the time of year where you get together with your family and friends and thank the gods for everything that happened during the year. Then you get lots of gifts and have a really huge supper, with turkey and gravy and carrots and cake and..."
"Ok, Zack I think he gets it." Rydia interrupted before Zack could drool.
Before Sephiroth could ask any more questions though, a boy's voice called from across the courtyard, "Zack, heads up!"
Zack looked to find the source of the voice and a ball of snow hit smack into his face.
Rydia giggled at Zack's bewildered look as he slowly wiped the snow from his face. Even Sephiroth was forced to chuckle at Zack's face.
When more snowballs came flying at them the trio ran and took cover behind a snow-covered bush. "Just you wait!" Zack yelled over the bush.
Grabbing some snow in his hands, Zack rolled it and then coming out from the bushes cover, let it fly.
Another two snowballs hit the bush as Zack ducked back down. Then all three of them rolled the snow and threw their balls. Only to duck back down before they got hit.
After awhile Sephiroth actually found he having fun, his two friends having just as much fun.
Then the fun was interrupted. "That's enough children! You all have classes to attend! Now get your butts in gear!" The Dean shouted from on top of the steps.
Everyone reluctantly came out of their hiding spots and solemnly marched back into the building. The dean glaring down at each student as they passed.
"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out."
- Walter Winchell