Title: Between Angels and Puppies
Author: Chibi Envy Chan
Pairings: Angeal/Zack though later Angeal/Zack/Cloud, Sephiroth/?, Genesis/?
Warning: There will be boy/boy/boy love and boy/boy love. Oh yeah, girl/girl love too.
Warning: There will be spoilers. I will try to follow Crisis Core, but I will deviate from time to time as I have other plans for Angeal.
Warning: Doesn't follow the timeline exactly.
Warning: Character death(s)
Warning: It will contain OCs.
Summary: Life is complicated especially when you work for a company like ShinRa. Everything seemed normal and fine until SOLDIERs started going AWOL without any rhyme or reason. Everyone has hidden motives, but are they good or bad? Follow a first class, a second class, and a cadet as they navigate through these troubling times. As if that wasn't hard enough, they have to deal with what they mean to each other.
Special Shout Out: This is a gift for an awesome Final Fantasy VII writer, Amarissia. Check out her stories. I have her under my favorite authors section. Chibi gives her a two thumbs up!
Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VII, but I do own my OCs. Basically, they're anyone you don't know.
Chapter 1: First Encounters
Standing on the observation deck, a SOLDIER first class observed the cadets training as their instructor practically breathed down their necks. His dark eyes wandered from cadet to cadet, not staying on one for more than a moment. Their forms were awkward, however, a few were starting to pick up a thing or two. Still, they all could use improvement. It would be awhile before any of them made SOLDIER.
Being here reminded him of the time, he first laid eyes upon his apprentice. The former cadet was such a ball of energy that it made people wonder if he had pure mako for breakfast. No one was that bouncy at seven the morning. Of course, his skills with a sword separated him from the others, and it was painfully obvious even to an amateur swordsman. However, he lacked focus, which was why they gave him a mentor. The cadet was too promising to lose due to a lack of focus. Thankfully, he had improved in leaps and bounds under his guidance.
The SOLDIER snapped out of his reverie and looked for the source of his distraction. Ah, the instructor had taken to yelling at a cadet over his form. When asked, the cadet performed it according to how he was taught by his unofficial mentor.
"Pfft, that idiot doesn't know what he's talking about," Zack spoke up, having been silent for a long time. It was a miracle for him to be quiet and in one place for more than seven minutes. Then again, it was for his student.
Angeal shook his head, a small smile forming on his lips. Who would have thought his student would ever become a mentor? He thought it would never happen, but Zack had a way of dealing with people. It was hard not to like him. The first class found himself of all people drawn to the very bouncy Zachary Fair.
Every time a certain cadet was yelled at, Angeal shifted his attention to his student even though he could hear the second class SOLDIER loud and clear. His actions were amusing to say the least, but he needed to talk to Sephiroth after what he witnessed. With the way this instructor was going, they'd be lucky enough to get a few thirds this time.
Angeal pinched the bridge of his nose at his student's choice of words. Where had he picked up such crude words? That person had better pray he didn't meet up with this first class ever. A thought popped into his mind. What if the cadet subconsciously picked up Zack's wonderful vocabulary? The blond looked too innocent and from what his student told him repeatedly was naïve.
Oddly enough, Angeal wanted to protect that innocence. He even had a feeling Zack felt the same way, considering the amount of time the two spent together. The first class felt strangely proud his student was maturing… somewhat and spending time with others closer to his age, but at the same time, he felt lonely as if a large part of his life disappeared.
Maybe just maybe that was why he finally decided to check out Zack's student, whom was proclaimed as 'the cutest thing to walk the face of the planet.' While he wasn't too keen on that description, he knew there was something special about this Cloud Strife, and it wasn't his unusual hair style.
"Zachary, are you finished?"
Not tearing his eyes away from the class, Zack grumbled. "It's Zack. How many times do I have to tell you. You want me to get a tattoo or something?"
This caused a dark brow to be raised. "The mutilation of you body isn't necessary, Puppy." He held back a smile when his student started pouting at being called that.
"Not a puppy," Zack grumbled. He then turned his attention back to the class when he heard the instructor announce the end of training. In less than a second, a huge smile graced his face, and he dashed out of the room, door swinging in his wake. His mentor merely shook his head, not that he saw it.
Angeal focused his attention on the blond and frowned. The kid had a lot of potential, but with the way his classmates treated him, he had serious doubts about the cadet's self-esteem. Currently, he was being jostled around as the other cadets departed the room. If that was the way they acted, they might as well be grunts.
SOLDIER didn't tolerate constant squabbles amongst its ranks and neither did Sephiroth. They'd' better get an attitude adjustment and quickly or fail the exam.
The SOLDIER first suppressed a groan when he saw his student charge into the room and glare at the offending cadets. As much as Zack wanted to help, all he accomplished was isolating cloud from his peers. He'd have to have a talk to his student about that, but for now, he watched from a safe distance.
Inside the classroom, Zack used his body as a shield against the other cadets. He glared at them if they so much as looked at Cloud the wrong way. Everyone knew he was a laid back, friendly SOLDIER so this came as a total surprise. Some had no idea what to say or do, hence, they walked around the pair.
Cloud, on the other hand, felt completely embarrassed. He just wanted to crawl into the nearest hole and die or sink into the planet. Why did Zack have to be so heroic? Sometimes, he wished his mentor would temporarily forget that he existed like so many other people. Sadly, Zack just happened to have a large heart.
The blond tried to hide behind the older man, not wanting his classmates to see him and most importantly remember that he was there. He packed his belongings and attempted to skirt around his unofficial bodyguard. Sadly, this didn't happen as the SOLDIER glomped him, causing him to squeak loudly.
"Zack," he pouted and squired in his iron grip.
"But you're so cute for you own good and glompable!" Zack cried out happily as he kept his prey in his grasp. It should be illegal to be this cute.
Was that even a word. Cloud didn't doubt it might be something his only friend would have invented and actually use as if it was part of their vocabulary.
As hard as he tried, he couldn't escape his stronger friend. In spite of times like this, he was glad to be Zack's friend. The dark haired SOLDIER was the only good thing here. That and he had a chance to see his idol, Sephiroth. What he wouldn't give to actually meet the guy in person.
Oddly enough, his prayer was answered when a strong hand pried Zack off of him. The cadet blinked a few times, adjusting to this sudden development before nearly fainting. Was that Angeal, one of the legendary SOLDIERs? He wasn't Sephiroth, but he was close enough.
Zack's whining brought him back to reality. The SOLDIER had lifted him easily in the air like a toy, a very pretty toy. He flailed around for awhile and then gave up.
"Angeal, this isn't fair!"
"And what you're doing to your student is?" Man, he sounded so cool, almost like the General, but less intimidating. He could actually smile and mean it.
By the way Zack was trying to think of something, anything, he knew he won this little debate. Sensing his defeat, the first class placed his student on the ground and released his hold, but he was alert, should the little imp act up again. The cadet had enough on his plate as it stood.
"Sir." Cloud snapped to attention and executed a perfect salute. He stayed that way until Zack made him lose it when he started tickling him. "Zack!"
"Enough with the sirs!" the second class said in exasperation. He was getting tired of it. The boy was too formal. He needed to loosen up a lot. After being satisfied with his 'revenge,' he slung an arm over his shoulders.
"Fair," Angeal warned, indicating he was more than willing to put him in a headlock, no matter how childish and unbefitting of his high rank.
"Eep!" Zack quickly hid behind the smaller body, trying to take up as little space as possible. "Don't let the big bad Angeal get me! I swear I'll make it up to you!"
Angeal felt like his head was going to fall off with all the shaking he had been doing. At times like this, he wondered if he was sane when he made Zack his apprentice. He moved closer towards the two and stopped when he saw his student's student start shaking.
"I'm not going to hurt you though I can't say anything about my apprentice."
Finally, it clicked. Angeal was trying to calm down the cadet. Sadly, with his reputation, people tended to think of him as being larger than life. The first class hated that. He wanted his SOLDIERs able to approach him without fear or worship.
"See what I mean! You're too cute to hurt, but me… I don't have that luxury." Zack moved according to where Angeal approached, using Cloud as a human shield. This resulted in the two SOLDIERs circling the poor cadet, causing him to become dizzy.
Seeing the blond turn slightly green, Zack stopped and cuddled him. He was about to pick up his student when Cloud squirmed away. "But you're not feeling well."
"Feel free to ignore his stupidity."
"I do it all the time, sir."
At least, the two were getting along. Zack should feel great, but out of all the topics, they just had to pick that! "I sense the beginning of an unholy partnership against me."
"Tough luck. Get over it," Cloud said as he started to become comfortable around Angeal. Hell, if the first class put up with Zack's nonsense, he couldn't be bad. Still he was too formal and his stiff posture wasn't helping him.
Angeal nodded his head. "It's your mess. Clean it up yourself."
"I'm not cleaning them," Cloud hastily spoke. He knew Zack would try to worm him into helping and looked over at the second class.
"Good," Angeal said, almost in a praising way.
Upon hearing this, Zack pouted and whined. "I should have never let you meet. No speaking to Angeal. He'll corrupt you." He moved to get the cadet, but the little bastard danced out of his reach and behind their superior. "See, he's corrupted."
The first class scoffed at this. Today was the first day he met Cloud. "And that's how you'll end up if you are not trained properly. He's been a very bad puppy."
Zack groaned and felt like hiding. "You two are out to get me, aren't you?"
"Maybe," Cloud said, looking as innocent as a kitten. How could someone be so cute and yet so evil? It wasn't fair at all. "Sir?"
"It had been my intention all along," Angeal added. Who would have thought Angeal had a sense of humor? He smiled a little, seeing Cloud's large grin and the cadet relaxing around him. Oh, he'd be paying for it later tonight, but it was worth it. Maybe just maybe Zack would realize that later on.
Whirling around, Zack pointed his finger at his mentor. "I knew it. I knew it. You've been plotting my demise ever since I first stepped food in this building!"
Cloud couldn't hold it any longer. He started laughing at how ridiculous the second class looked. When he saw a mock glare directed at him, he clamped a hand over his mouth.
Finally Zack sighed. "Go ahead and laugh. You look cute. You should do it more often."
Silently, Angeal agreed. The boy's laughter was oddly soothing.
That certainly quieted Cloud. He went from laughing to pouting in less than a second. Cute? He hated being cute especially since he was a guy. Guys weren't called cute. Boys maybe.
"Wait a minute! You've never been formally introduced." Zack said once he was finally over being upset at being the butt of their jokes. He literally dragged his student over to his mentor, making them face each other. "Angeal, this is my student and the cutest thing to walk the face of the planet, Cloud Strife. Cloudy, this is the most awesome teacher and more, Angeal Hewley. Go on, hug each other. Make sure to keep those hands above the waist where I can see them."
"Only you would do that," Cloud muttered even though he knew they both would hear. Stupid mako enhancements. Some day, he'd be able to hear low sounds. Instead of hugging, the cadet settled for shaking his hand. He was surprised how gentle Angeal could be with that strength of his.
Once again, Angeal silently agreed. As strong as he was, he learned how to control his strength. He looked over the blond once more before watching the two mock fight. Unlike the two, the first class preferred watching. He tried to blend with the shadows, but his student had other things in mind.
"And where do you think you're going, hm?"
"How are you holding up?" the second class inquired as the two started cleaning up their mess from dinner.
If he could speak, Cloud would say 'on a total high.' He had recently met the Commander Hewley and made it out alive. The first class seemed to be larger than life. He thought Angeal to be the tough and cold type just like Sephiroth. He was almost human in the way interacted with others. Maybe he should stop listening to his childish classmates.
Zack chuckled. "He was something else, wasn't he? I mean when I first saw him, I thought he was going to eat me alive, but he can be gentle when he wants to be. Sometimes, he was too gentle like I'd break when he was too rough with me." The blond was too young for him to go into detail, and he really didn't want to scare him away not when he was starting to open up. "You'll get used to it."
Blue eyes focused on him. His hands stopped drying the dishes, and he almost dropped the plate. Thankfully, Zack's probing brought him back to reality. He resumed drying the dishes.
"Spike," Zack said, full of concern. He didn't need Cloud clamming up again, not with all the patience and time he invested in the kid. It was like dealing with another Sephiroth, Zack didn't like it. He wanted to hug the cadet and make his fears go away, far away, but he didn't know where to start. "Please talk to me. You're more talkative, and I'm worried."
Guilt washed over Cloud. The last thing he wanted to do was cause his mentor to worry about him. Zack had other duties and was on the verge of making first class. It wasn't like he wanted to keep secrets. Cloud didn't want to be a burden to the SOLDIER. That was why he kept secrets, not only out of fear but more out of gratefulness.
"I'm just surprised. That's all." He hoped that would be enough for now.
Knowing Cloud's personality, Zack didn't push it. He hoped one day his student would feel comfortable to be himself especially around his superiors. If the blond kept this up, he would make first class in no time, and that meant learning how to deal with them on a daily basis.
"He wasn't what I thought he'd be," Zack sighed as he reminisced about the good old days when he was a cadet. This was certainly an unlikely turn of events.
"Really?" the cadet whispered shyly. He peeked over the dish he was currently holding. Zack wasn't the type of person to shy away from anything. He was bold, confident, and strong, a protector of the weak. This did not suit the image that Cloud had of his mentor at all.
"Yep! Hey, don't give me that look. I was once a cadet and a cute one to boot. Heh, hard to believe." Zack chuckled while his student looked at him all confused. It took all of his willpower not to drop the bowl and glomp the cutie right then and there.
"How did you read my mind?"
The second class looked thoughtful. "Well, you see I'm psychic. Did I ever tell you that?" He received that look Angeal gave him whenever he was acting like an idiot. How was that possible? They never met each other until today unless they weren't telling him anything. Not fair!
Rather than voice opinion, Cloud went back to drying the dishes as if he never heard Zack's latest comment. He turned his head slightly so the elder wouldn't see his smile. It wasn't too hard to read him, and he knew it. He wished it wasn't that painfully obvious. As soon as he was finished, he put it away and held his hand for another.
"You two are so up to something. I knew it!"
"Don't be ridiculous."
Shuffling the paperwork, Angeal couldn't stop thinking about that day even though it had been a couple of days ago. In a lot of ways, Cloud reminded him of Zack when he first started, but at the same time, they were different as night and day.
His student was more confident and outgoing. If he put his mind to something, there was almost nothing on the face of the planet that would stop him although sometimes it landed him in trouble. Angeal had to bail him out of those and hastily apologize to whoever he offended that time. Sadly, it involved upper management for many of those occasions. Despite this and his inability to concentrate, he learned quickly and was eager to learn more.
Cloud, on the other hand, had more concentration. He could go into the zone and work on some tedious drill or task for hours without complaining. His determination made up for his lack of natural talent and small body. If anyone worked hard in that unit, it was Cloud. However, he tended to be shy and not confident in his abilities. He constantly doubted himself and limited his abilities. His instructor didn't help at all. If anything, the Sergeant would have let a valuable SOLDIER like Cloud slip out of their grasp simply because he couldn't see anything past large muscles and destructive talents.
Still, the two had a lot in common. They were both extremely loyal to their friends and would go out of their ways to not burden those close to them. With Cloud, it took him awhile to open up, but with Zack, he was everyone's buddy. The two worked hard in whatever they did and even practiced more than others. The second class was a couch potato as far as paperwork was concerned. The two took pleasure in the simple things. From the stories Zack told him, Cloud appreciated the simple things in life that most people took for granted. Their hairstyle set them apart from the crowds. They defied gravity, continually taunting the natural force on a daily basis.
Angeal looked down at his paper and nothing made sense. He was on the third page of the report, but he had no idea what he recently read. Oh great, he had his head in the clouds figuratively. Now he just needed someone to find him like his student. He'd never hear the end of it if that happened.
A creak caused the dark haired SOLDIER to nearly crumple the report in his hand. He held his breath, waiting for his student to pounce on him like he always did though he didn't mind it all.
This time the door opened quietly and gracefully, the visitor strode in, a concerned look on his face. "Angeal, I had been knocking on your door for a full three minutes. Is there anything wrong?" And if there was, he also wanted to know how he could fix it. Professionalism aside, Angeal was one of the few friends he had and trusted.
Seeing The General and not his student, Angeal exhaled in relief. "No, I'm fine. No need to worry. Is there anything I can help you with?" Straight and to the point as always.
Sephiroth tilted his head slightly. "Where's the report on the Kalm mission?" It wasn't like Angeal to be late in handing it in very late, but it was out of character for him to adopt a puppy.
Glancing down at his report, the dark haired SOLDIER realized he was holding the very report Sephiroth was asking for. Why was it taking so long for him to read a simple report and then add his comments to it before shipping it off to his superior? He normally would have it finished within an hour and hand it to Sephiroth before the General could even have a chance to remember about asking for it.
Perhaps, he wasn't used to the fact that his student now had a student. Angeal was so used to having Zack follow him around like a puppy. It was disconcerting when he looked around for him and couldn't find him like he usually did. He half expected to find the second class dashing for a hiding spot or pretending to do something else if he was in a common area. Now the second class divided his time between the two of them. He didn't know how to feel. At first, he resented his puppy's attention not being on him, but when he met the small cadet for the first time (only had watched through the mirror), he couldn't muster up any ill feelings against him, no matter how hard he tried.
"Angeal, perhaps you should take the rest of the day off," Sephiroth suggested. How did he get so close? Before his second in command could protest, Sephiroth grabbed him by his arms and hauled him out of his chair. "Go before I order you to."
Man, it must be bad if Sephiroth of all people noticed and did something about it. The General was a master strategist, but he had no clue about human interaction, all thanks to Dr. Creepy. "I still have reports to finish and Zack's training. He's been progressing quite nicely, and I'd hate him to stop his—"
"Don't worry about the paperwork, I'll get Genesis to finish them."
If it weren't for the circumstances, Angeal might have smiled or even chuckled. "You know how he hates paperwork. Remember the last time he spent all day in his office?"
"Quite well, and he knows better than to do a repeat of that performance if he doesn't want to do that again." Even though he was a first class and could get away with a lot, Sephiroth made sure he got what was due to him and then some. The poor guy would never look the same way at a bathroom again, shared or not.
Well at least he survived. That was important, right? Right.
"Your student. You wouldn't be of any help if you were distracted yourself. He has a hard time focusing completely as it stands."
True, but he was becoming better at concentrating. Zack lasted longer in their practice duels. Still, his long time friend was right. He wouldn't be any help to Zack if he couldn't concentrate. Might as well spend their time lifting weights. It didn't require that much concentration.
"He would never let me forget if he ever finds out," Angeal responded with a sigh and a silent request that his student never find out about his lack of concentration. He prided himself on his control.
"This never happened, now go," Sephiroth indicated while he gathered Angeal's unfinished paperwork. It took him less time than he thought as his second in command hated procrastination and was very tidy unlike his student.
"Thank you, Seph, for everything."
Meanwhile in the VR training room, Zack encouraged his student as he fought low level guards. He often linked his PHS to the system and watched Cloud in person, just in case he needed help or a swift, heroic rescue. If it was too much for him (which was never the case as he'd pick something he knew he could handle), he'd turn off the simulator. Thankfully, the Sephiroth program never kicked in at the low levels, but they had quite a few times where the Genesis program launched on its own. Usually, the Angeal program would activate and save the unfortunate soul.
For this simulation, Cloud had to fight his way through a terrorist outpost. It wasn't heavily guarded so it shouldn't overwhelm the cadet, but sometimes, he had difficulty with it, depending on how he felt that day. His objective was to gather information on the main group's movement without being caught. While there weren't many guards, the facility wasn't lacking in security features.
Cloud had almost made it out when one of the fallen guards sounded the alarm. The blond tore through the rooms, the disk securely tucked in his pocket. He managed to put some distance between him and his attackers, but they were everywhere, and he couldn't shake them. All he had to do was meet up with the driver of the ShinRa truck.
Just a little further, Cloud put all of his lessons into use. Of course, he didn't use Sergeant Okami's advice. He tried it once and looked like a complete fool in front of his mentor. Zack merely smiled and told him how to pull it off without looking like a klutz. Needless to say, Sergeant Okami wasn't pleased when it was demonstrated on him.
Before he could blink, a guard ambushed him and the two went down hard. He was armed with only his fists, which was a good thing for Cloud. Rolling around, they grappled with each other. If he kept this up, there was no way he'd pass this mission, and it meant Zack had to save his scrawny rear again.
Well, that was not about to happen!
Using the ground as leverage, the cadet tried a dirty trick and aimed for the man's groin. He then shifted his focus away from that and towards his upper body. In one move, he pried the guard from on top of him and knocked him out cold.
'If you're fighting against someone stronger and bigger than you, use every advantage you have even if it's distracting him. You have advantages that big people like me don't.' Zack's words came back to him as if he was mentally talking to the cadet, which was physically impossible.
Sure, he was on the small side, but that didn't mean he was defenseless. Small people had their own way of fighting. Never underestimate them.
Skidding around the corner, Cloud had barely enough time to register the driver in the get away truck. He hoped it was part of the simulation like the Angeal or Sephiroth program, because Zack promised not to interfere. Even with the many hours he clocked in, he never met up with a Zack program.
"What are you waiting for? Them to invite us to tea?" The second class opened the door. He couldn't grab the blond, because it meant he interfered, but if he waited, the VR program would recognize Cloud as having completed the mission on his own.
The younger teen glared at him before he jumped into the vehicle. He knew that. Sometimes, he was tired of being treated like a kid. Actually, he hated being treated that way. So what if he didn't have a six pack? His body was still developing. A few years down the line, he'd have a body like Zack's. Then he'd show these people. He'd protect her like promised.
"Mission completed," a robotic voice announced before terminating the simulation. The two removed their visors and other devices.
"Great job, Cloudy!" Zack chirped and proceeded to glomp his student, not caring if he broke expensive equipment.
Fortunately for him, Cloud moved in such a way the VR equipment took no damage, but it meant he'd have a bruise or two in the morning. "Zack, we're holding sensitive equipment. I can't afford to replace it if you break it!"
"Don't worry about it. I have enough for it," the second class preened as he continued to hug his student. He couldn't get enough of holding Cloud like this, which was unfortunate for the poor blond. The cadet was like a big plushie, and Zack wanted to cuddle with him a lot. So cute!
A choking sound came from him. Yeah, right. Zack tended to spend his paycheck as soon as he got his hands on it. It was only with the help of Cloud that he started saving it and not wasting it on frivolous knickknacks.
"You know you can stop whatever you're doing." It was embarrassing.
"I'm making sure my chocobo made it out in one piece," Zack said without missing a beat. He felt Cloud tense for a moment and sag. Just like Angeal, Zack had given his student an embarrassing nickname.
"'M fine. Didn't need your help," the cadet muttered.
Zack was thankful Cloud couldn't see his face. He let down his cheerful mask for a few seconds before replacing it with his trademark smile. "Aw, my little Cloud's growing up."
That one little statement hurt more than being stabbed in the gut. Zack liked protecting his little Cloud and did his best to be a good mentor though he wasn't sure how it worked out. He did everything Angeal did when he was a cadet. Where did he go wrong? How could he be a better mentor?
Thinking about it, Zack realized he loved having someone who depended on him, not the other way around. He had been protected by Angeal on a daily basis that he needed to prove himself. To who and for what reason? He didn't know.
'So this must be how Angeal felt when I said I no longer needed him to watch over me like a hawk.' It didn't feel nice at all.
"You can let go any time," Cloud said, feeling both comfortable and uncomfortable in the second class' embrace. He loved being held like this, but he didn't want anyone to see him like this. It made him look like a girl.
Zack let out a long suffering sigh. He liked cuddling, so what of it? "Too much work, and I'm comfortable."
"People can see us," Cloud hissed, knowing the other as well as any SOLDIER within a range could hear him. He hoped they didn't have any cameras with them. Last time, he lucked out when the third class' camera malfunctioned before he could print the picture or for that matter, save it.
If he could, Cloud would have put his face in his palm. Didn't Zack know a little thing they called tact?
A dark shadow fell over the VR entrance.
"Ah, I'll leave you two love birds alone."
My first chapter and I leave off on such a cliff hanger. I'm so evil… Well, actually, it isn't much of a cliff hanger. (sighs)