Title: Three SOLDIERs and a Lady

Author: CrisisChild

Summary: AU Angeal always considered himself to be quite responsible and honorable and his mettle is put to the test when an unexpected turn of events leaves him a father.

Rated: K+, for mentions of death

Prompt: Beginnings

Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Final Fantasy series. If I did certain people would still be alive. And with happy families with lots of babies and maybe a dog. Named Zack.

Author's Note: And so I start on my pet project, an AU where Angeal gets to be a dad. Thought it would be a cute idea. Also thought it would be pretty cute if we dragged in Genesis and Sephiroth as well. They always say it takes a village to raise a child...I'm sure three SOLDIERs should do just fine...right? Right? Also...this would be more of random moments kind of fic, rather than a chronological order sort of...thing. I have no idea. XD It will also be part of a 100 themes challenge. Also...the beginning is set about two years before the beginning of Crisis Core. Angeal should be around 22-23 at this point.

001. Beginnings

"From small beginnings come great things."

It was just a simple mission.

Go to Wutai, locate some scientists for Shinra, escort them back to Midgar.

A simple mission; an easy mission. A second of even third class SOLDIER could have handled the job on their own. Hell, a couple of the army's infantry could have been able to see this assignment through without too much trouble.

It should have been just a simple mission.

Nowhere in the mission specs did they ever mention that the tragets in question would be bringing a child with them.

At the time, the area around Fort Tamblin was a warzone with gunfire going off every second, littered with screams and cries of agony as bodies hit the dirt. The two scientists had been kidnapped from their post where they had been examining possible sites for future mako reactors, along with some other Shinra employees and held for ransom. It had been his assignment to infiltrate the fort where they had been kept and rescue them. Getting in had been easy; the Wutai soldiers had been a sinch to dispatch as the 1st class SOLDIER made his way to the holding area.

Getting out had been no walk in the park, but Angeal had managed somehow, getting them all out of Fort Tamblin ithout getting killed. Infantrymen waited for them, ready to take the hostages out to safety, but Angeal's main objective refused to leave. Not when they realized that they were missing something.

A child. Their child, who had been taken hostage with them. The very same child who had been used as leverage to keep them from escaping before help had arrived. The very same child whose life had been threatened time and again, if they did not cooperate.

The very same child they wished to go back for.

Angeal always considered himself to be quite a responsible and honorable man. And he always had a softspot for children, deep down inside. One of his dreams was to settle down and have a son or two with some woman who would become the love of his life, the way his mother had been to his father. And one of his pet peeves was the idea of a child bereft of parents or parents bereft of their only child.

So he had gone back with the scientists in tow, hoping they could possibly lead them back to the missing child who had been abducted at the same time as their parents. Angeal didn't have to. It wasn't part of his mission. But he would be damned if he left one innocent behind.

It had started out as such a simple mission.


"Hey, kid. How are you?"

"Still not saying a word, huh?"

It had been weeks—almost a month since the mission in Wutai...weeks since this child had been orphaned due to his carelessness and pride. Angeal had brought the kid back with him to Midgar along with the other hostages and put the young orphan into social services as quickly as possible following the funeral funded by Shinra. The child had an inheritance, of course, which would be held in trust until they were old enough to take it on. Until then, his young ward would be sent to live in a foster home. Of course, the process had been quite difficult for everyone involved—including Angeal—as child refused to leave his spot within the orphanage he had been temporarily placed in.

Today should have been the fifteenth interview for some foster parents for the child Angeal only knew as 'Seffie'.

From what tyhe social workers had said to him over the phone, Seffie had gotten into a fight with some of the other children—yet again—right in front of the potential foster parents that had come in to the Sector Eight Orphanage. The two adults had their reservations about being saddled with such a violent, troublesome child and had left without so much as a second look at Seffie. And then the child went had locked himself up in one of the rooms, refusing to come out.

And that was where Angeal came into the picture.

The dark-haired SOLDIER had been the one to send the child to this place and had checked up on him periodically during his stay, to see if he was adjusting to the changes in his life. Seeing the tiny thing huddled up in the corner of this dusty storage room told him otherwise, though the older man could understand exactly why.

The two of them sat together in the old room, Seffie huddled up on the floor, while Angeal had taken a seat on a crate filled with broken toys. The man observed the child next to him as they sat in silence together after their initial greetings (or Angeal's own, anyways, since Seffie had barely ever said a word since meeting abruptly in that Wutai holding cell a month ago), noting somet things in his mind as the silence carried.

Seffie was tiny for a boy his age, Angeal mused. His arms were small and scrawny and he imagined woudn't be much use for hard labor when he grew up, unless he trained himself to be stronger. And was he wearing the same clothes he had seen him in the other week? And the week before that? In fact...Angeal was quite sure Seffie had been wearing the exact same combination of t-shirt and shorts when he had rescued him and his parents. The boy had no lack of clothing he could wear during his stay at the home, but every time the SOLDIER came to call, Seffie would appear in these exact same set of clothes. He had to wonder if it was some sort of apathy that had set in the child since the death of his parents or if it was something else altogether.

"You know, Seffie...you just can't do that anymore. I know you're doing it on purpose. Not talking...getting into fights," Angeal lightly admonished, looking seriously at the young child. "We're all doing this for you, you know. You can't stay here forever—not when people are willing to take you in. Not when everyone is doing their best to help you."

They had had this conversation at least a dozen times. It was one-sided, of course, since the dark haired boy barely ever said anything beyond an affirmative grunt or a negative sounding noise to his most probing of questions. Angeal wasn't sure it would ever amount to much of anything, but he always came back, feeling that Seffie being an orphan in the first place had been his responsibility and that he had to do the honorable thing and get the boy adopted or brought up in a loving foster home.

Seffie looked up at him with baleful blue eyes. Angeal raised an eyebrow.

"Oh, come on. We are trying to help you, you know," Angeal said, reaching down to pull the kid onto his lap. Normally, the man wasn't for physical contact, but since it was just a little kid and no one else was around, it wouldn't matter, right? Seffie sat himself on top of Angeal's right thigh, looking up at the SOLDIER holding him and giving the man a strange sense of deja vu. Like he had seen this scene a million times before, even though this was the first time he and Seffie had ever been in such a situation. Now where had Angeal seen this before...?

A hand was raised and rested on top of Seffie's slightly long hair, moving slightly and ruffing the dark strands gently. The boy's blue eyes were reminiscent of his, when he had been younger, he thought. And this black hair...it was like his, too. Like his father's hair.

Ah, that's what's familiar about this, Angeal thought, looking down at the boy with something akin to distant fondness. His father had been a good man; a stern man with strong conviction and sense of honor. He had been someone who wholeheartedly loved his family and did everything he could to raise his one and only son and that had included not skimping on his punishments or lectures. Many a time had Angeal, in his youth, sat upon his father's knee, listening to go and on about dreams and honor as well as get chastised whenever he had done something wrong.

Angeal let out a small sigh.

"You know, Seffie...it's not always easy being a kid. And it's extra hard when you don't have parents. I remember what it was like...losing my dad, too," he began to say, continuing the motion of stroking the kid's head. Seffie tilted his head to the side curiously, young face full of curiosity. Angeal smiled and continuted on. "Every day since I lost him, I'd wake-up and thought about what we could do that day—getting wood from the forest together for the upcoming winter, maybe some sword practice or I could follow him to work as a hunter and we could catch a few hares together. But whenever I'd go see if he was in his room or in the yard, I wouldn't find him there and it would suddenly hit home that my dad wasn't around anymore."

Angeal remembered the funeral. It had been an irritatingly sunny summer day; a fifteen year old version of himself had actually cursed at the sun for being out and shining so brightly in a cloudless sky and he had done it so vehemently his mother actually had to wash his mouth out with soap. Only Angeal, his mother and an old friend of the family's—Professor Hollander—had been present for the funeral. He wished his best friend would have been there, too, but it wouldn't have been right to clal him on such a personal thing. Angeal hadn't cried that day and had not shed a tear the days that followed his final farewells to his father and it hadn't been weeks later did he cry at the injustice of it all.

"Do you remember the sword I had with me in Wutai?" Angeal asked the boy. Seffie nodded in response. He did recall the overly large sword on the SOLDIER's back that had never been used. Angeal had kicked punched his way out of the prison that had kept Seffie separated from his parents. "That sword was the one my father gave me...a sword he had worked hard to get for me, because I had made it into the SOLDIER program. It was...a sword of pride, honor and dreams, made from blood, sweat and tears."

Angeal remembered being away, at the time, being schooled in Midgar to become one of the best SOLDIERs there was. It had been his father's hope that he got a good education and became something other than a hunter, although, if Angeal had chosen the hunter's path he would have been proud of him anyways. The man treasured hard work and pride and honor in one's work, no matter the occupation. But still, the man only wanted what was best for Angeal and did everything in his power to make sure that his boy was on the straight and narrow and going through school without any trouble. Angeal had never appreciated how hard his father had worked, until he was told by his mother that he had died from illness and fatigue...that he did everything in order to give everything for his only son. And that was how the Buster Sword had been passed down to Angeal.

"I had wanted to quit being in SOLDIER, you know, because I didn't want to leave my mother alone. She just slapped me once and said that was not what my dad would have wanted. Do you know why, Seffie?" Angeal looked down at the little boy who seem a tad misty eyed—probably from hearing this story—seeing him shake his head as an answer. He patted the kid's head to console him and whatever feelings were bubbling up from inside. "She told me that he would have wanted me to keep going. My mom said that my dad wouldn't have wanted me to quit and to keep on being a SOLDIER, because it had been my dream. And all dreams have to be honored."

Angeal smiled down at Seffie, who looked like he was ready to cry, his lips trembling as his whole body shook.

"Do you understand what I'm trying to say?" the older man asked. Seffie nodded, sniffling and holding in tears rather bravely as all six year old boys always tried to do. The gruff SOLDIER's face softened up at the sight of the kid holding it in and shook his head. "It's okay to cry, Seffie. You miss your dad, don't you? You don't have to keep it in. We're all here to help you. I'm here to—"

Faster then a Gold Chocobo, quicker than a Midgar Zoloom, the dark haired boy on his lap had thrown his slim little arms around the SOLDIER's neck and cried. Cried and cried and cried right into his sweater, grasping at the fabric and clinging hard as he let out his bottled up emotions.

"—help," Angeal finished, just allowing the boy to shed his tears. It was awkward, because he had never actually dealt with the tears of a child himself, but he knew that this was the only course of action he could have taken with the reclusive orphan boy. He patted his head gently. "It's okay, Seffie. We'll get through this together, okay?"

"I...I....I miss my mom!" Seffie cried, his voice slightly muffled by the fabric of Angeal's shirt. The man was surprised that the boy had spoken, but said nothing as he stammered on about his loss—something the poor kid hadn't had enough time to himself to mourn about. Everything had moved so quickly, so efficiently, so heartlessly—the tears of a lost child had barely been taken into consideration. Not even by the child himself. Just like him, all those years ago when his own father died. Right away, Angeal had tried to assume responsibility, had tried to be an adult for the sake of others without any regards to himself. A selfish and foolish thing to do, his mother had admonished.

And he had been lucky back then, to have had his dear mother with him still to comfort him and advise him as he needed. But this boy of whom he felt he was responsible for...who did he have? Angeal had checked, before taking the child into social services to be placed; Seffie had no living relatives to speak of. His grandparents had long passed away from disease and old age. His father had been an only child and his mother's siblings and cousins had all been killed during the Wutai War, having been residents of Wutai who actively fought against Shinra along with the rest of the nation.

Seffie was all alone.

"I want my daddy...I want my daddy...." Seffie chanted over and over into his shirt, tears still being soaked into the thick fabric. Angeal sighed and stroke the child's head.

"I know," he replied, "I know."

Angeal stayed with Seffie for hours in that dusty old storage room. The boy had shed enough tears to fill an ocean, while the male SOLDIER had endured it all silently and as supportively as possible. What Seffie needed was stability in such an uncertain time of his life; what the child needed was a guiding hand, but that could never be if he kept pushing people away. This behaviour reminded Angeal vaguely of someone else and their own personal problems, but he pushed those thoughts away and concentrated on the boy who tired himself out from sobbing and wailing and crying.

The boy's pale cheeks and pert nose were reddened from being upset and Angeal had no doubt in his mind that the next time those blue eyes opened up again, they would also be red and quite puffy. The child had let out a month's worth of unshed grief, it would be understandable that he would be emotionally exhausted enough to just drop into unconsciousness.

But what to do about Seffie himself? The child proved that he wouldn't willingly go with just any pair of adults that walked into the orphanage. But he was truly troubled and needed someone there for him. Quiet, unobtrusive until provoked and utterly perplexing in his own right, the dark haired boy needed someone close who could coax him into action and back into living his life.

Not many would be able to do that, though.

Sighing, Angeal stood up from his perched on a crate, carrying the boy-child effortlessly in his arms. He carefully adjusted his hold so that Seffie rested in one of his arms, freeing one so he could open the door to the storage room.

Well, he had to take responsibility for him; Angeal was sure he could think of something.

It should be simple enough.

Of course, life was rarely ever so simple. And even someone like Angeal Hewley would have no idea what he would be getting himself into.

And this was how it all began.