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A Known Target (Final Fantasy VII, Zack, m)


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So… I’m gonna be really vulnerable now, which is hard but I think I have to be upfront in order to be able to put this post out there (there is a fic at the end of this, I promise).  I’m finding it more difficult than I expected to post in a niche fandom, particularly putting things out there and not knowing how they are being received.  That is 100% my issue and no one else’s.  I wanted to write this character (I still do) and even in a popular fandom, no one is owed engagement on their posts.  But my hope is that acknowledging those feelings will help me deal with them.  If you read, I hope you enjoy.  Please don’t feel any pressure to comment.  This genuinely isn’t a request for interaction.  

I did want to say that I am questioning whether I have it in me to post the things that I promised.  I will if I can.  If not, I’ll do my best not to leave anyone high and dry.  I’m still gonna keep writing (I love that part) and I’m happy to send stuff to people over DM.  My email is on my profile for anyone who doesn’t have DM.  If I do reach that stage, I’ll post a list of what I have in drafts for anyone who wants to order off the menu.  It’s just putting things out into the void that sometimes makes me a bit sad, and as a general rule, I’d rather not feel sad if I can help it.  But for now, I’m gonna plod on and see how I cope with it.

Anyway, I am kinda proud of this one, so hopefully I didn’t start it off on too much of a downer.  If you read this, thank you, and I hope you understand.


Spoilers:  Unlikely?  These would only be spoilers if you haven’t played the original game, and you are part way through playing Crisis Core.  I can’t imagine many people play the games in that order, but if that is you, then you might wanna give this fic a miss.

If you’ve ONLY played the original game btw, you should be a okay.  You’ll have all the important context.  Same goes for the remake actually.  

Info you’ll need if you don’t know the fandom:


Zack was a special forces operative who became inconvenient to his employer (ShinRa) and he’s now on the run with an incapacitated friend.  There is a fleeting reference to the Turks.  They’re ShinRa’s intelligence agency - think espionage, reconnaissance and lots of dirty dealings.  Zack has friends in the Turks and one of them helped them escape, but they work for ShinRa and he can’t trust them.

I gave Zack a smoke grenade allergy.  If you want more background on that, you can find it in my other fic, which I’ll link below, but you don’t need to have read it.



When a whole bunch of grenades thudded to his feet (Five? Six? Seven?), Zack prepared to dive away, just in case.  There wasn’t going to be an explosion though.  He knew what this was.  With long-practiced habit, his fingers flicked under the catch of his items belt.


Hissing filled the air as streams of smoke pumped from the fallen canisters.


Yeah, he’d called it.  Of course they’d do this.


It’d been a while.


He broke open the catch on his belt to liberate the vial, and he downed the meds that ShinRa gave to him.  Idiots.


As a heavy cloud spread across the battlefield, Zack’s head filled with that still-familiar itch, he had to sniff as his nose threatened to run - but it was okay.  He shifted his grip on his sword.


“You can’t take me out with those,” he yelled at the infantrymen that surrounded him.


Of course, now he only had two vials left, but he wasn’t gonna think about that.


Gunfire lit up bright through the fog, and Zack charged.


The fight was over so quickly he thought it must be a trap.  He held back for a bit, kept his sword drawn, checked for more troopers behind rocks and around the far side of the hills.


“Think they’re underestimating us buddy.”  He said in the end, rubbing his nose and leaning over the crevice where he’d deposited his friend.  “Not even bothering to send a decent army.”


He put his arms around Cloud’s sides and heaved him onto the rock so he could tuck himself under the smaller man’s arm.  With a bit of effort, he hauled the pair of them up, Zack braced to take Cloud’s weight as his friend hung limply at his side.  He pressed the wrist of his free arm against his nose.


“Ugh, here we go.”  Recognising the risk to Cloud, Zack shuffled him about to get a tighter grip.  He clenched his muscles, trying to hold stiff.  “AhhASHHhEw!  Hahh…HASHHhEw!”


Cloud was jostled, but he didn’t slip.


“Ugh, sorry buddy,” Zack said as he straightened.  “I’m gonna be like this for a while.”


He’d be worse than this, probably, once the meds wore off, and a hell of a lot worse again if they made him use up those other two vials.  He’d decided that he wasn’t thinking about that though.


Oh crap.


Maybe that was the point. That little unit probably wasn’t meant to kill or capture them, just to let off the smoke grenades and whittle down his resources.


“Real nice ShinRa.” Zack said out loud.  He wondered if they’d had families.


Then he felt guilty for not wondering about that kind of thing more often when he was still on the roster.


Maybe he should’ve held on to the meds.  There weren’t that many troopers.  Perhaps he could have handled them as well as the allergy attack.  He’d have been an absolute mess by now though.  Even if he could have fought off the infantry, he probably couldn’t have carried Cloud after, couldn’t have ridden the bike.  Worse, he would have stayed a mess for a really long time.  That damn smoke lingered.  It wouldn’t have taken much for ShinRa to send in a second unit, a bigger one, at any time during the hours it would have taken for the sneezing to stop.


No, they had him right where they wanted him - of course they did.


His steps slowed as the prickling gathered behind his nose.  He wrinkled it, trying to assess whether another sneeze was on the cards.


It was, he decided, but not right away.


“So, I dunno if you remember,” he said, bending his head closer to Cloud’s as they shuffled along, “before we shipped out to Nibelheim, pretty much all the resistance groups started using smoke grenades in every attack.”  He sniffed and rubbed his hand under his nose.  “Yeah, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but that was kinda my fault.”


He dragged Cloud round the back of the hill-face where he’d stashed the motorbike.  It was so much easier when he could leave Cloud in the sidecar, but after his last run in with Genesis, it seemed too much of a risk that someone would just hot-wire the thing and drive Cloud away.


Zack’s nose twitched.  That sneeze from before was coming on quick now.  He wondered if he could delay long enough to get Cloud into his seat.


“Hahhh… huh-ehhh…”


Yeah, that’d be a no.


“HuhhtT’ISHHhhEw! Ugh.”


The meds had been perfect to begin with, reducing the most horrific, mako-powered allergy attacks to literally nothing.  It was one-a-day max at that dosage, though.  They’d always said they could add a second, if they really had to, if it looked as though he might regularly have more than one exposure in a day.  The only issue was that double doses meant that they’d have to compromise the efficacy.


Resistance use of the smoke grenades continued at ridiculous proportions, and eventually they’d given in and upped it to three.  Hojo wasn’t too happy about the dilution of his concoction.  To be honest, Zack wasn’t too happy about spending most of his battles with a tickly nose, but he liked it better than trooping back to HQ every time he’d had a second exposure.


He hopped onto the bike, resting his forearms against the handlebars for a minute.  He could already feel the beginnings of another sneeze and he’d rather get it over with before they got back on the road.


He sniffed, and leaned across to Cloud in the sidecar.  “Don’t worry, we’ll get going in a minute.  Just, uh, just let me…”


He tipped back, surrendering, as the feeling began to expand.  He squinted at the beating sun, chest rising and dropping as his breaths turned deep and sharp.


“Hahhh… Huhhhh-ahhhhh… HhhHuhhh….. Hahh-AaHhh… Hahhh’HISHHHhhEw!”  He almost sat up, but itches gripped him again, already at peak intensity. He gasped.  “HEHT’TISHHhew!  There we go.”  He sniffed, and scrubbed his nose with the back of his hand.  “Man, I’m sorry about all this.  But trust me, it’d have been a lot worse if the Company hadn’t hooked me up.”  He patted his item belt.


Only two left though.


Yep.  Definitely not thinking about that.


The engine rumbled underneath him, and the wind whipped through his hair, and no one seemed to be chasing them at that particular moment.  It was kind of alright.  He could take itches fluttering in his nose and prickling in his eyes, just like he took the pangs of loneliness and the hunger knotting his gut.


He leant over to rub his face against his arm.


“Glad I got you with me buddy,” he shouted to Cloud, the speed of their movement trying to whisk his words away.  “HhhNnKkHh!  HhhNNKHh! Huh’NNKkH!”  He cut off the sneezes with the back of his throat, hoping he could force his eyes open more quickly and keep better control of the bike.  His nose itched furiously in response.  “Hah…hh… ahhh…  ISHH’UHh!”


All of this did make him think about the consequences of running from a Company that knew everything about him.  He wondered what else they had on him, aside from the grenades.  Did they know about the tiny bit of weakness that he still got in his hip?  It wasn’t anything major, but if he wanted to do anything especially dynamic or explosive it was always in the back of his mind that his left leg might not entirely hold.  He got by okay though. It probably wasn’t a huge deal if they did know.


Of course, they also knew who his friends were, and they had pretty easy access to most of them.  If they really wanted to, they could use them against him.  If they grabbed a hold of Aerith, asked him to trade his freedom for hers, what would he do?  He looked down at Cloud.  It’d be a much easier call if it was only his own freedom he’d be trading.


Yep… yep.  Not thinking about that one either.


The dirt track became thin and winding up ahead.  He cocked his head up at a huge rocky outcrop towering over them on their left.  He shot up immediately, craning to get a better look down the descending road.  Down in the valley the canopy of trees was circular, thick and dense, plants and vines sprouting out in a thick tangle around the edges.  Zack’s heart beat fast in his chest.  He hit the breaks.


Zack hadn’t seen a friendly face apart from Cloud’s since the day of the fire at Nibelheim. While it really had been great to have a friend with him, it would be something else entirely to talk to someone who could talk back - not a Turk, either.  In a fit of mindless optimism he imagined how it’d feel to have someone who would unreservedly take his corner- or even just someone to tell, someone outside of himself and the Company who could hear him and know what ShinRa was doing.


He dropped his head into his gloved hand and pinched the bridge of his nose.  That tickling was working it’s way back up to being really damn annoying.  Funny, he’d spent the weeks before his capture wishing that people would ignore the whole grenade-allergy thing.  Right now it’d be pretty great to have someone acknowledge how much all the sneezing and the stinging eyes must suck.


“HEKT’CHUH!”  He drove his face against his arm, quick and violent, and the sound disappeared off across the hills.  Nobody responded, obviously.


He breathed a long, slow breath and looked down into the valley.  He hadn’t seen this place in a very, very long time.


He slumped low over the handlebars, clutching the back of his head.


Because, of course, the Company knew where he grew up as well.

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I loved this! 🥰

Going on the run from your own side and having them use your allergy and other weaknesses against you, plus not knowing who to trust? Talk about putting Zack through the wringer! 💗 Poor baby. 🥺 I’d love to see where this goes, I just hope there’s at least a bit of comfort amongst the hurt?

Please don’t be afraid to keep posting, though I understand how it must be difficult for you. There’s a great quote from Brene Brown (who researches vulnerability, shame and courage) and she said “vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

I went to a con a few months ago and there was a veteran cosplayer there giving a talk about cosplay for beginners. One thing she said that stood out to me was, don’t be afraid to cosplay in something you enjoy, no matter how out of fashion or unpopular or obscure the character or fandom may seem to everyone else, because when you go ahead and do it anyway, you’re going to run into that one person who gets it, and it will absolutely make their day. And yours! And the funny thing was, she was right because as I was leaving I ran into the one person there who wasn’t wearing an anime/superhero/Disney costume, but was dressed as an unlikeable character from British SF and it made my whole week just to get a photo with him (and I think he was pleasantly surprised someone recognised who he was supposed to be.)

There’s not many people out there with a sneeze fetish to begin with, and it can take a long time for us to work up the courage to engage (like it did for me!) so you can bet there’s a ton more people lurking out there.

But don’t be afraid to write what YOU want. You deserve to be happy and to write what makes you happy.

And even though I don’t know FF at all, I’ve loved everything you’ve written about it and I check the forum every day eagerly awaiting the next chapter from you and rereading what you’ve already posted. Because, to me,  it’s just that good! Your writing makes me happy too! 🤩 

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Also, your Humanity story has more than a thousand views (and they can’t be just from me) so your writing is more well-received than you may think!

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Thank you, honestly.  I’ll try to keep going.  I just… need an exit strategy?  Just in case?  My mental health can be a bit shaky and if I’m not sure about how people are receiving me I tend to overthink.  But l am enjoying writing, and I’m gonna write it regardless, so I kinda might as well post it, I just need to be careful that I can do it without it affecting me too much.  Throughout this whole thing, your comments have been an absolute burst of sunshine though.  I would definitely have reached this point a lot sooner if it hadn’t been for you.


This fic is a one-shot (I’m sorry - I’m hoping that doesn’t disappoint too much).  This whole sequence is pretty well-documented in the game, and I don’t know how much I can add to the stuff people will already know.  I just wanted the opportunity to imagine how this bit of the story would have gone if he’d had the smoke grenade allergy.  I can tell you where it leads to in the actual game if you want to know, though tbh there isn’t all that much comfort involved!  He’s such an optimist though, he kind of makes his own comfort along the way.  Also, I do intend to fill in some gaps related to how things got to this point when I write the sequel to Humanity.


Thank you again, your encouragement has meant a huge amount to me, probably much more than you know.

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Just to say - I know nothing about this fandom but I will read anything you write because you're just that good :)

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Òh man thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know. I'm so happy you've enjoyed the stories :) 

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