'Tenshi no Tsubasa'
"Stay back!" he shouted.
The young SOLDIER stopped short, staring at him with wide cerulean eyes. Angeal could not help despairing inwardly as Zack Fair looked upon him fully for the first time.
Or more appropriately, at the pearly white double-wings spreading from his right shoulder blade.
White feathers floated gently in the light breeze as mentor beheld charge. Angeal's own glowing Mako eyes were narrowed as he met Zack's astonished gaze. Unconsciously he shifted his stance to a defensive one and hefted his thick Buster sword, bracing himself for the inevitable barrage of fear that should surely be coming anytime soon.
Instead, all Zack said in a hushed voice was, "Why did you hide them?"
Taken by surprise by such an unexpected question, Angeal blinked, before quickly covering it up with a frown.
Zack, misinterpreting his mentor's expression, hastily added a belated, "Sir."
Angeal sighed, shaking his head in displeasure. "I thought that I have taught you well, but it seems not." Throwing an uneasy glance at his wings, he said, "I hide them because… they make me a monster."
The morning air that blew in from a half-opened window was crisp and cold as Angeal Hewley sat on the floor of his bedroom in the quarters reserved for SOLDIERs,.
It was small but spoke clearly of his tidiness. His bed was carefully made. A small bookcase standing in the corner had a few books arranged neatly as well as an old chess set with the pieces lovingly placed in the beginning position of a game. The desk beside his bed had a pen, a telephone, and a small kettle with a cup. Beside the wooden door, his Buster sword rested on a specially-made stand, readily at hand whenever he needed it.
Every inch of the room was sparkly clean. Angeal was very particular about cleanliness and he, for one, could not bear the sight of dirt. He did not understand how some of the SOLDIERs could have a month-old cheese buried under a hoard of untidy clothes and not smell it.
Angeal's eyes were closed, his legs folded in the lotus position. A slight breeze ruffled his short ebony hair but he paid it no heed, breathing deeply and regularly.
There was a knock at the door. Angeal opened a glaseous eye, brow furrowing in irritation. The sound came again, accompanied this time by a voice calling his name.
With a sigh of annoyance, he got up and went to answer the door.
At once he was greeted by Genesis's friendly smile.
"'Morning! We're leaving now!"
Angeal tried not to glare at his childhood friend. It was bad enough being disturbed in the midst of his meditation, but to have Genesis dropping hints like these…
Genesis laughed, sapphire eyes sparkling merrily. "Yeah, of course! For Headquarters! Don't tell me you've forgotten?"
Angeal folded his muscular arms across his broad chest. "I most certainly have not."
Genesis gave him a look over. "Well, you don't look that prepared to me!" he remarked, smirking.
Angeal looked down and realised with a start that he was still in his shorts and t-shirt.
Feeling his face grow hot, he muttered, "I will be right out," before closing the door in the face of a hysterical Genesis who was doubled over, wheezing with laughter.
In less than five minutes, Angeal emerged from his room, wearing the full SOLDIER uniform, Buster sword over his shoulder. He gave Genesis one look before marching off in the direction of the lift. Genesis hurried to keep up, still chortling.
As they stepped out on the roof of the building, the freezing draft sliced through Angeal like a knife of ice, making him shiver. Beside him, Genesis drew his scarlet cloak closer around him as he scanned the overcast sky.
"Winter isn't very far of, is it?" he said in a conversational tone.
"No," Angeal managed to answer through chattering teeth, "I suppose it is not."
His breath misted before his face as he followed behind Genesis to the nearby helipad. Already on the Upper Plate, most people were beginning to ready themselves for the cold season. Far below in the streets, Angeal spotted a couple walking hand-in-hand wearing thick warm-looking sweaters and a lady hurrying to the train station wearing a scarf.
Angeal found himself wishing that he had put on his own cloak. Anything than having to face this icy cold. Instead, he thrust his fingers into his armpits, trying to retain what body heat he had left. Genesis noticed his efforts and shook his head sympathetically. There already was a helicopter at the landing pad. Genesis's eyes filled with worry.
"Uh oh…" he whispered.
"SOLDIERs!" There came a sudden shout from up front.
By reflex, both Angeal and Genesis snapped to attention. Peering out of the corner of his eyes, Angeal could just spot the suited figure walking towards them. It had to be one of the Turks, one of the elite personal bodyguards of the president of Shinra Inc.
As he drew closer, Angeal recognised him as the leader of the Turks, Verdot. Beside him, Genesis saluted smartly, surreptitiously poking Angeal hard in the ribs to do the same.
"As you were," said Verdot, waving at them. "Please, explain why you're both late."
"Err…" Genesis threw a furtive glance at Angeal.
"I overslept, sir," Angeal said, looking straight ahead, palm still at his temple.
"Is that so?" Quiet footsteps before Verdot's face filled Angeal's vision. "Hmm?"
Angeal met his eyes. "Yes, sir."
Verdot's mouth tightened. "You're lucky we haven't left yet." He jerked his head in the direction of the helicopter. "All right. Get in you two."
Verdot's frown deepened. "Quickly. We don't have all day."
"Yes, sir!" Genesis answered, pulling Angeal's arm and leading him towards the helicopter, whose engines were already revving up.
They almost dashed into the welcoming warmth within the vehicle, Angeal slamming the door shut behind him. The interior was rather plain but for a few seats lining the sides. There were two other SOLDIERs there as well, both looking as though they had just rolled out of bed. One's head was falling forward onto his chest and the other was snoring gently.
Genesis snorted. "Early, huh? They must've been here all night or something from the looks of them!"
There was a sound from the cockpit as Verdot climbed on board. "All right, Reno. Let's go," he said to the pilot, a roguish-looking redhead, who nodded, grinning.
But Reno always grinned. Only this time, he was chewing some gum as well.
"Yessir!" he said, punctuating his sentence with a loud 'pop' as he burst the pink bubble he was blowing.
Verdot winced. "None of that, Reno, if you please."
As the helicopter began to lift off, Angeal felt a growing eagerness. Genesis looked flushed.
"This is it," he whispered, "We'll finally be First Class!" He grasped forearms with Angeal. "And we've done it together, just like we knew we would!"
The corner of Angeal's lips twitched upwards into a half-smile. Genesis's enthusiasm was infectious. His friend was the only person who had that effect on him. They were as different as day and night, yet they were the best of friends.
"Well, we had better settle down," Angeal said nodding towards the empty seats, "It will take some time to reach Headquarters."
"How can I sit when I feel like celebrating?" Nevertheless, Genesis sat down.
Angeal chose a seat directly opposite to him.
"I mean, it's just like you said," Genesis shook back his auburn hair. "It's been our goal since we joined SOLDIER," he paused, grinning delightedly, "our dream."
Angeal simply nodded. He listened to Genesis's animated chatter all the way to Headquarters without interruption. As they landed, with a small jolt, the two dozing SOLDIERs jerked awake, blinking sleepily. One yawned widely, stretching while the other got up groggily.
Genesis was already on his feet, pulling the door open. Angeal had to bite back an exclamation as the cool air rushed in, but Genesis beckoned frantically to him.
With a sigh of resignation, Angeal stepped out, just in time to see President Shinra stroll past, smoking his usual cigar. His son, Rufus, the vice-president of Shinra, walked briskly at his side, studying their surroundings with cold eyes.
Heidegger, the Head of Shinra's Public Safety Maintenance Department followed closely at his heels. Heidegger was the head of the Turks and Shinra's elite army, the SOLDIERs. A short, bearded man, he had a scar running across his right eye, which simply added to his evident ferocity.
The trio were apparently in deep conversation. As they passed Genesis, who saluted, Shinra stopped, looking at him thoughtfully. He gestured at Genesis with his cigar before walking off with Rufus.
Heidegger, however, came towards the newly-landed party. Angeal saluted, noting that the others did the same as well.
"So, these are the new 'uns, Verdot?"
Heidegger's raspy voice sounded like he had a sore throat and a bad head cold all melded into one.
"Yes, sir," Verdot replied as he carefully clambered down from the helicopter.
Reno, on the other hand, simply leaped off, landing on the ground with a loud, triumphant, "Yah!"
Grinning, he turned to point at Verdot, who was still lowering himself on the ground.
"I've beaten the old man yet again!" Reno laughed cheekily. "Like I said, old men don't belong on helicopters-" He burst another pink bubble with his tongue. "-helicopters are places for hot guys."
His grin widened as he pointed at himself, "Like me."
Verdot's face was flushed as he glared daggers at Reno. "It doesn't matter if you always jump instead of step down," he said tersely, "but if you break your neck, it's your loss."
Reno looked on the verge of a smart reply, but he caught sight of Heidegger.
"Deggy!" he shouted, running towards the shorter man.
Before Heidegger could react, Reno picked him up and whirled him around before setting him back on his feet and yelling, "Nice to see ya!"
Angeal flinched. He did not particularly like Reno's loud ways, but he was a Turk after all and therefore his superior. He had to be tolerated. Still Angeal could not help wanting to strangle the guy.
"Reno, stop!" Heidegger waved his hands frantically.
Reno, still laughing, turned…and walked smack into a tall, dark-skinned bald man wearing sunglasses.
"Oof!" he grunted before glaring at the bald man. "Hey! Watch where you're going!"
The bald man said nothing as he looked straight ahead.
Reno growled. "Hello? I'm talking to-"
"-Your new work partner, Rude," Verdot interjected smoothly.
"WHAT??!" Reno turned to look incredulously over his shoulder at a smug Verdot and Heidegger. "Why in the world do I need a work partner?" Reno demanded furiously.
"You do need…supervision, sometimes," Heidegger said, idly examining his fingernails.
"Rude will be a good partner for you," Verdot added. "So I suggest you get yourselves…acquainted."
Reno's mouth worked silently, but before anything could come out of it, Rude laid a firm hand on his shoulder and began to drag him away effortlessly.
"Hey, gerrof me!" Reno shouted, struggling.
"Take care of him, Rude!" Heidegger called after the pair.
"Deggy, how could you? This guy's not hot like ME!!!" Reno shouted before Rude turned a corner and they disappeared, though Reno's enraged shouts continued.
Heidegger nodded in satisfaction. "That boy's going to get some sense knocked into-"
He started as he caught sight of Genesis, Angeal and the other two SOLDIERs, looking very much awake now. He had evidently forgotten that they were there.
"Verdot, take them along," he said, dismissing them with a wave.
Verdot bowed as he marched off, before turning back to the SOLDIERs.
"As you were," he said.
Angeal had to stifle a sigh of relief as he let his hand drop from its salute. His fingers were numb and he flexed them a little, trying to restore the blood circulation.
"Now, SOLDIERs, follow me," Verdot ordered before he turned smartly on his heel and began walking off in the direction of the lab.
As they followed him into the building, Angeal felt his excitement rising again.
Little did he know that he would regret this day for the rest of his life.