I don't own Final Fantasy VII. Sadly.

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It was, sadly, not uncommon a sight to turn a corner and find a cheering-slash-jeering huddle of cadets. Let them blow off some steam, most other Firsts said. Better each other than ShinRa equipment. After all, it was all in good fun. The other Firsts seemed to forget that typically the unfortunate person in the middle of the huddle had much less fun than the others. Then again, most of them had never been in the middle themselves.

Angeal had. Granted, it rarely lasted long. The first two weeks of SOLDIER prep was spent convincing the other cadets that yes, Genesis' hair was naturally that color, no, it's not a good idea to hit on Sephiroth, buddy, you'd better not put your hand there, wait wait Seph he's kidding! I am not cleaning that up, dear God where're we gonna hide the corpse?

Good times.

Alright, so he'd never really been picked on; Sephiroth, Genesis and Angeal had earned the name 'Bloody Trinity' long before Third Class. Still, few things pissed Angeal off as badly as ganging up on a comrade. If you had to be savages then dammit, go one-on-one and beat the hell out of each other like civilized savages.

So when the sounds of a ganging-up-on trailed down the halls and into Angeal's office, he set out to rain hellfire down on some cadets. (There were three things that made cadets sound that happy; there was no decent food inside the ShinRa building and there had better not be porn in the hallways. That left public humiliation.)

"What's going on out here?"

Cue the instant freeze of the recently guilty. Or it might be the freeze of OH GAIA there's a First talking to me. It didn't matter.

"Well?" Angeal prided himself on his stern face. It was a gift Gen didn't have, and one Seph had to spend an hour daily practicing

"We were just having some fun sir."

Ringleader, Angeal categorized. Cocky-looking. Wearing expensive shoes. Daddy's boy, Ifrit, I hate those.

"Fun?" Slowly he raised one eyebrow and smirked to himself as Daddy's Boy paled. Sure, the same move by Seph could have gotten at least an leaking bladder or two, but it's not the soiling that counts. "Does everyone here agree with that?"

Ha, Victim. Angeal spotted the red-faced young man quickly. "You there, you agree with that?"

"Uh," he stuttered. To his credit, he didn't glance at any of the boys around him. "Yeah, uh, yes sir. Fun." He didn't seem beat up, just winded, and slightly flushed with embarrassment.

"Alright then." Funny how it only seemed to make the cadets more nervous. Angeal snickered mentally. "I'm on break now and could use a laugh or two." Nobody moved. "Well? Let's see it."

There was much whispering and shoving and gesturing in his direction, before Daddy's Boy stepped forward again holding...

The hell? Was that a ball?

"Well Sir," he drawled, cockiness back and just oozing from every pore. "It's like this." He bounced the canary-yellow ball once, twice catching it as it rebounded off the floor with a practiced flick of the wrist. "Cadet Fair," bounce, bounce, "has a little," bounce, "problem," bounce, bounce, bounce. Victim, presumably Cadet Fair, had his eyes glued to the bouncing sun-spot. "He's got," bounce, bounce, "an attention-span," bounce, bounce, "that's almost," bounce, "canine." Fair was rocking on his feet now, body humming with repressed energy, eyes never leaving the ball. Bounce. Bounce. "So you see, sir," bounce, "it's real fun," bounce, " to do THIS!"

Daddy's Boy jerked his arm back and put his whole body into the pitch. It was, frankly, impressive. For a cadet, anyway.

"BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!" And Cadet Fair pitched himself after the ball.

"Ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball ball!"

Angeal Hewely had seen many things as a SOLDIER, but nothing quite like this. The ball hit the wall at the far end of the corridor and disappeared from sight, Fair not far behind it.

"You must be joking."

"Not joking sir." Rather difficult to believe as everyone, save Angeal, was trying to hold in laughter. "Sticks too. Catches 'em before they land. Even brings 'em back if he's real bored." Goon 2, Angeal categorized absentmindedly. Not as bulky as Goon 1, but definitely smarter.

Down the hallway, he could make out echoes of ballballballball as either Fair had not yet caught up to it, or someone else threw it.

"How the hell did he make it into SOLDIER prep?"

Daddy's Boy shrugged. Ugh, that little habit was going to have to stop. "He's got great reflexes. Is ridiculously fast. Is pretty intelligent. Would get full marks in everything if he could pay attention long enough to finish exams. When you're sparring, if you stand still enough, he sort of forgets you're there, but once you move he hits hard. Uh...sir."

The remaining cadets shifted uncomfortably in the following silence, eying Angeal as one would a rather large and hungry dragon. They were serious!

"Damn, Kunsel tossed it out the window agai..." Cadet Fair jogged back to the assembled group, words trailing off as he suddenly remembered there was a SOLDIER First who had seen him chase a yellow bouncy-ball. He blushed a deep maroon, no mean feat for someone with his complexion.

The single eyebrow that had risen on Angeal's face hovered dangerously close to his hairline. Wordlessly he held out his hand, and equally wordlessly Fair relinquished the ball.

A little bigger than a tennis ball, Angeal noted. And about as heavy. "It's Cadet Fair, correct?" He didn't give the boy a chance to answer. "Do you often play fetch in the hallways?" Impossibly, the boy turned even deeper red.

"No sir," he all-but whispered, suddenly fascinated with his shoes.

Maybe it was the little sadistic streak that both Genesis and Sephiroth swore he had, or maybe he just really wanted to reassure himself that he wasn't crazy. But for some reason, Angeal reached up and chucked the ball over his shoulder.

"BALL!"

Fair lunged around the larger man, snatching the ball out of the air, tucking into a neat dive-roll, and springing back to his feet. Damn! The boy hadn't even been looking.

Fair quickly figured out that being distracted by a rubber ball enough to forget the commanding officer standing in front of you was a rather bad thing. The kid was going to pass out from the sheer volume of blood rushing to his face now.

"Cadet Fair."

The boy squeaked, and tried to cover the terribly unmanly sound up with a cough. It sounded like a bark.

Angeal sighed. "At least find another hallway, would you?"

Correctly interpreting the dismissal, the cadets fled.

I can work with this, Angeal found himself thinking, and immediately cursed himself for the notion. It wasn't his problem that SOLDIER entrance criteria were slipping. And he most certainly did not need to add a hyperactive puppy to his things to do. But with each step he took towards his office, the niggling thought grew. Those reflexes! That speed! And apparently he's not as dumb as he looks!

I think I can work with that.

He paused and glared at the door to his office for a moment as another thought made itself known.

Gen's never gonna let me hear the end of it.