The sun was rising pale and bright over the red stone of the Cosmo Mountains when the first of them woke. Zack parked the buggy on the side of the bush track, and sat there breathing in and out, trying not to have a panic attack.
He'd been cool-headed when he broke them out, when he sneaked them out of Midgar, when he smuggled them on the ferry to Costa del Sol. Heard a little hand patting the walls of the crate it was in, and suddenly he wasn't.
Wasn't too late to turn around and take the fork that would bring him to Gongaga. Would take him, what, four hours? At most.
But likely the Turks were already lying in wait by his house, and the only thing that might still save his parents would be total radio silence. They couldn't be used as bait or leverage if Zack couldn't be told they were being used. Better pretend to be long estranged.
Tiny fingers were now tapping against the planks, a slow, curious rhythm. Zack told himself to man up and climbed out of the cabin.
The crate took up the back of the buggy, but even then it didn't look big once stuffed with five slumbering toddlers. Zack had taken off the lid as soon as possible so the kids would have air, and tied a fishing net all around to make sure none of them crawled out. Kegarr's kid had his fingers in the holes, poking them through the holes and wriggling.
He had Kegarr's glowing purple irises and Sephiroth's pupils, adding to the dramatic contrast of his milk-coffee skin and tight silver curls. "You're going to be a heartbreaker" slipped out of Zack's mouth before anything else. The kid stared at him, unblinking.
"... Hey there," Zack said, coming up to the crate, and rested his fingers on the edge. There was no reaction. It really sucked that Zack had had to torch the files; making sure the doctors didn't reproduce their experiment came first and there had been no time to get more medical info beforehand. He was sure (almost sure) that a normal kid at this stage of development should be talking.
Wasn't sure what they'd say, though.
He started to unknot the net. "You hungry? Thirsty? Need to pee?"
The other kids were still asleep. He swung his arm over the edge of the crate and down, to feel their faces. No fever, and they were even all breathing. Great. He turned to Kegarr's kid and slipped his hands under his armpits to lift him up. It was like lifting a sack of potatoes. No healthy toddler Zack had ever known was so limp and complacent when handled.
None had that bone density, either. "Man, it's a good thing I'm augmented," he said, sitting the kid on his hip so he could free a hand to re-tie the net properly. "... Aw, shit, not that I'm saying you're fat. I hope I'm not screwing up your whole development."
The kid kept watching him, expressionless.
"... Alright then. What am I gonna do with you..."
It was then that he felt his answer, right there against his hip. Apparently, living in mako tubes as they were, there had been no need for the kids to be potty-trained.
Somehow, he muddled through, manhandling the kid out of the Cadet-sized shirt he'd stuffed him into back in Midgar, washing his legs, drying them, and manhandling him back into one of Zack's own turtleneck tops, which fell way past the poor kid's knees. He even managed to convince him to drink from the bottle and not choke, which was an unexpected success considering how responsive the kid was.
And then, oh, hell, it was warm so far south, and there was no one around to say anything about him driving in his underpants anyway. The soiled clothes went in a plastic bag. The kid went in the passenger seat. Zack buckled him in, chattering about he didn't even know what, and started the buggy again. He remembered a little creek, a slow, sun-warmed one, a few miles thataway. He was gonna need it. Guarantee he'd have to wash the rest of the brood too.
What he really needed was to stop thinking of him as Kegarr's kid. (or Sephiroth's kid, somewhere deep inside.) Because he wasn't. And he wasn't Doctor Kanzaki's Experiment number SX-what-the-fuck-ever, either. He was Zack's now.
"River's too girly. Also hello, the naming story -- yeah, so you peed on me and I had to wash you so I named you after the first body of water we came across."
The kid was staring at him again. Zack grinned.
"Rain's even more girly, and also cliché. Rune? Rune Fair. Hm. Naw. You don't strike me as a mystical sort of guy. Mikael? Danny? Gabriel?"
"Nrrr. Nh. Ah."
Zack blinked, slowing down the car so he could take a longer look than just a quick side glance. The expressionless little face had gone tense, expectant. Zack knew it was more likely to be due to the unexpected difficulty of making sounds, or perhaps a bowel movement, but... heh.
He rested his hand on silver curls, comforting, and said, "Alright. Gabe it is."