Author's Note: This is me wondering about how the strange friendship between our one-winged angels started. So here goes, my attempt at writing it. :) We'll see how it goes. This is a Genesis, Sephiroth, and Angeal fic, even though it says Angeal and Sephiroth in the classification. I wish I could put 3 characters. I couldn't resist an urge to play with them all together. However, just due to character types, this will be a mostly Angeal and Sephiroth fic for a while, with nice little splashes of Genesis thrown in. I intend to try to keep this as possible and in character as I can. Please, tell me what you think! :) ~Alma

Prologue: Coming of Age

Genesis caught Angeal's eye as he came walked out of the Shinra recruitment office where he had just passed in his enlistment details. Angeal smiled uncertainly at the excitement in Genesis' eyes. They were really going to do it. After he passed in his paperwork, they'd both be official members of Shinra.

Well, in theory, anyway. Angeal clutched his paperwork uneasily as he walked through the door. They would technically be a part of the army, but they'd have to wait a few weeks or perhaps even a couple months before preliminary selections for the SOLDIER program, where he and Genesis and every other Shinra hopeful wanted to end up. If they were lucky, their applications would be accepted and they'd be brought all the way into Midgar for secondary evaluations. That, at least, was what they were hoping.

However, at the moment, the mere idea of simply becoming a part of the huge, incomprehensible thing that was Shinra had an unsurpassable power. Angeal took a deep breath and walked into the recruitment office.

It was small; everything in Banora with the exception of the apple orchards and Genesis' house was small. The room was almost entirely occupied by a large, solid looking desk, with the imposing red and black Shinra symbol emblazoned on a flag hanging off the front. Behind a computer and a mountain of papers, folders, and other objects, sat a man in formal, working clothes. He was Runen, the Shinra recruiter who was unfortunate enough to be assigned to Banora and the surrounding countryside. He was about 35, grumpy, unpleasant, and seemed to take young people as a personal affront. Angeal's mother didn't like him and had even told him so, which was remarkable, and so Angeal was wary.

Runen looked up with his characteristic grumpy glare. Seeing Angeal, he scowled. "You too, I'm assuming."

Angeal nodded uneasily. "Yes. I'd like to join Shinra." Saying it made him feel slightly stronger. Runen wouldn't deny that, or else he wouldn't be doing his job.

"Fine, fine," the older man grumbled. "Give me your papers, then."

With an uncertain smile, Angeal produced his registration papers and handed them over. Runen glanced at the top page, turned to his computer and hit what looked like a long practiced set of keys.

"Well, take this, then." Angeal took the paper held out to him. It looked so normal, but it wasn't. He knew it wasn't. On it was printed his full name, his place of birth, birthday, a physical description, and a registration number. He was now a part of Shinra.

"At the bottom of that page there is a statement. Read it."

Angeal obeyed, looking down past his information to a box. Underneath a black and white version of the Shinra symbol, there were a few lines printed across the page.

I, registree number HG-22853, Angeal Hewley (his name had been printed in the obvious space), hereby concede to the Shinra Electric Power Corporation my services and work. I give the leaders of the Shinra Electric Power Cororation the right to determine my location, actions, and station as pertains to the interests of the company. I understand that the Shinra Electric Power Corporation will be in charge of providing housing, training and equipment and will do so as is seen to be fit and proper according to the goals and direction of the company. I attest here that I will follow the orders I am given and put whatever effort I can towards furthering the ideals and glory of the Shinra Electric Power Corporation.

"See that?" Runen was leaning over towards his computer, not looking up.

Angeal looked up. "Yes."

"Understand it," the man ordered. "That's your oath, the thing that makes you a part of the army. Every soldier in the Shinra army has taken that oath. Remember that, understand it, don't forget it. Do you understand what it means?"

Angeal blinked at the statement, reading it again. After a minute, he nodded, glancing up at the registrar uncertainly.

Runen laughed for some reason, sounding kind of sarcastic. "Good, good, of course you do. Go ahead, then. Sign your name."

Angeal returned his eyes to the paper. There was a line underneath the statement, with another small one next to it for the date. For a moment he hesitated. The line was suddenly something dividing, between parts of lives. He was finally going to do it...and then everything would change. He'd be leaving Banora, leaving everything he'd grown up knowing, and going out there.

The moment passed, though. It wouldn't be that bad. He wanted this, he reminded himself. And Genesis would be with him. Not everything important to him would be left behind here. They'd be going together.

He reached down and signed his name on the line. The neat, careful letters stood out with black finality on the line next to the standardized computer text.

"Well done. I can actually read that," Runen grunted under his breath. "Give it here."

Obediently, Angeal let the grumpy man take the paper and scan it into his computer. A whirring of machines, and the paper was returned to him.

"Keep that and don't lose it. You'll need that registration number. It'll take a few weeks for your papers to process, then you should expect orders to come in. You'll be sent a list of things you should bring and all that junk then. They'll expect you to be ready to leave a few days after receiving orders. I have no more information for you. Any questions?"

Angeal shook his head. "No. Thank you."

Runen glanced back at him. "Word of advice, kid. You're in the Shinra army now. You ought to start practicing addressing your betters as 'sir.'"

Angeal blinked, then nodded immediately. "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." It felt intrinsically odd.

"Good. You're a natural. Run along, then." Runen was already looking back at his computer, obviously having spent his attention quota on a Shinra recruit.

After a moment, Angeal nodded and, clutching the paper he'd been given, turned and walked out of the office.

It was so strange. He had expected to feel some great change in himself after becoming a part of this. Instead, he felt a lot like he had that morning, except for this strange fuzzy feeling that he couldn't pin down. It was either anticipation or nervousness, all wrapped up in excitement. The paper held in his hands made low crinkling sounds as his fingers moved up and down the crease over and over.

Genesis was leaning against a tree on the far side of the road. His red hair was vivid in the sunlight, contrasting sharply with the white of the young apple tree behind him. He was doing his best to look cool and unaffected, but Angeal could tell that he was excited. The Loveless book that he carried with him at all times was tucked in his pocket, untouched, and he was agitatedly unfolding and refolding his paperwork, watching the door.

Upon seeing Angeal, Genesis' blue eyes lit up and he bounded forward. "Angeal, we did it! We're in. We're really in!"

Angeal grinned as Genesis dashed around him, a blur of red cloth and energy. "Yeah…I guess we really did…" He looked down at the paper folded in his hands. They were on their way now. They really were going through with it.

Genesis was beaming from ear to ear. "Angeal, we're going to go to Midgar. We're going to be SOLDIERs! We'll be heroes!"

"If we get into SOLDIER," Angeal muttered, but he was smiling, too. Genesis' happiness was contagious, and always had been. There was something about his friend that could make everything seem wonderful.

Genesis laughed, dancing around Angeal in his excitement. "We'll make it. Of course we'll make it. I promise you, you'll see! You're the strongest person I know, Angeal! They'll take us to Midgar and we'll be SOLDIERs! Everyone will look at us and be amazed, two country boys like us, all the way in Midgar, eh? Can't you see it?"

Angeal smiled, watching as Genesis stopped in front of him, arms raised to the sky as if in some exaltation, and a wide, confident grin lighting up his eyes. Angeal wasn't good at saying things, and never really had been. He couldn't ever say anything like he wanted. But Genesis could paint such wonderful pictures with words when he was so happy like this, and Angeal always felt himself believing in them, enjoying them with his friend. Genesis' hope and joy was absolutely infectious. He couldn't help but smile widely. "Yeah. Yeah, we will."

Genesis grinned.

It was reflexive to catch his friend's mood and reciprocate it. Angeal followed his friend, smiling. "Gen, I have to go home…I've got to tell Mom!"

Genesis spun on his heel, nearly turning a pirouette as he danced back to Angeal. His eyes were alight with excitement. "Yes! Let us return home victorious!"

Angeal smiled and let Genesis' enthusiasm catch him. For the first time in years, the two of them ran down the road like a couple of kids, Genesis alternating between running backwards and forwards and laughing all the way.

~Three weeks later~

Angeal looked at the long, metallic line of the train as it pulled into the station. The shrieking of the wheels against the tracks seemed sad and shrill, hurting his head.

This was it, then. He was going now. To Midgar. To SOLDIER. He was 17 years old. He shouldn't be scared.

Genesis stood next to him, head cocked to the side. "It's so long…"

Angeal smiled shakily. "Yeah. Can you imagine riding it…?"

Genesis shrugged. "We'll find out." He hefted his suitcase, kicking one of his duffel bags forward. "Hey, it's your mom."

Angeal blinked then turned. Gillian Hewley walked over to the two of them, holding two train tickets in her hand.

"Here you go, boys." She gave each one of them a ticket.

Genesis looked down at the piece of paper in his hand, crumpling it between his fingers, slightly embarrassed by the smile Gillian gave him. They'd had an argument at Angeal's house over who would pay. Genesis had insisted that he would pay fare for both of them, as he had more than enough to buy passage to Midgar. However, Gillian had smiled at him and thanked him for his kindness, but very firmly stated that she would pay for the ticket, as it was something she'd been saving for ever since Angeal had been a small child. She had enough to send her son on his way.

Genesis hadn't known how to counter that. Much as he wanted to help out, Gillian, like her son, had this sense of propriety and honor that was ridiculous at times. That was probably one of the reasons Genesis had been so taken with Angeal when they had first met so long ago. He'd had to content himself with paying for his own ticket, and helping Angeal's mother make lunch while Angeal rechecked all of his bags.

Now they were here, bags assembled, tickets in their hands.

"You promise me to be careful, alright?" Gillian broke him out of his thoughts. Genesis looked up to see Angeal's mother pinning them both with a piercing look.

Angeal nodded. "We will, Mom." He was smiling.

Genesis felt that smile tug at the corner of his mouth. Seeing Angeal with his mom always seemed to make him smile. He liked being around their family, because of the strange understanding between mother and son.

Not like his family at all. It was Angeal and Gillian's twin smiles that managed to keep the sting away of the conspicuous absence of his own parents.

"Don't worry about us, Mrs. Hewley," he assured her. "Angeal and I are smarter than that city!"

Gillian smiled at him, her blue eyes lighting up. "That's good to hear, Genesis. I'll expect to hear back from you both."

"You bet," he agreed readily, the sentiment echoed by a nod from Angeal.

"Good." Gillian's eyes turned to her son, and Genesis sensed that this was goodbye. Something made him stop, standing back from the scene with his bags. This was Angeal's mother, not his. This goodbye was to Angeal, not to him. If his parents had cared, they would have come. He couldn't take this away from Angeal, especially not when the bond between his friend and his mother was so close.

Gillian gazed up into Angeal's eyes for a long moment. Then she smiled. "I have something for you, Angeal."

Angeal and Genesis both cocked their heads in question as Gillian reached behind Angeal's bags she had been moving and with effort pulled out something else.

Judging by the awed light that flashed in Angeal's eyes, Genesis guessed that his friend knew what it was the moment he saw it. Genesis didn't recognize it, however, and looked carefully at the gift Gillian offered her son.

It was a sword. A huge sword, easily twice as thick of any that Genesis had ever seen before. The hilt alone was as long as his forearm; the entire blade was probably as tall as he was. Golden swirling patterns adorned the hilt and guard, and the wide, sharp blade flashed even in the low light. It cut into the air with a powerful and beautiful finality.

"Your father had this made for you, before he died," Gillian explain softly. "This sword represents the honor of our family. It's yours now." She held the sword out to Angeal.

Angeal stared at the huge blade with reverence. Then he reached out a hesitant hand, touching the hilt. Blue eyes took in the length and breadth of the blade, it's power and presence. Then, carefully, Angeal closed his fingers around the hilt of the sword. Strangely, to Genesis, while Gillian's hands looked terribly small and delicate in comparison to the hilt, Angeal's hand seemed to fit.

Gillian smiled and released the sword to her son.

Angeal nearly dropped it under the unaccustomed weight. Luckily, he caught it with his other hand and managed to held it steady. He was still looking at it in awe.

"You'll be strong enough to use it," Gillian promised him. "I know you will."

Angeal glanced away from the blade at his mother. His face softened into a smile. "Thanks, Mom." He very carefully lowered the heavy sword to the ground on top of his bags. "I'll take good care of it. I promise."

Gillian's eyes shone with pride. As Angeal stood up, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. "I know you'll make me proud, Angeal."

Angeal smiled. Genesis did, too. His friend looked a little bit embarrassed at having his mother hug him in the middle of the train station, but Genesis knew that Angeal was happy that his mother believed in him.

It made him momentarily sad that his parents hadn't even bothered to know when he was leaving. It wasn't a big deal, though. He didn't want to say goodbye to them.

After a long moment, Gillian let Angeal go. "You'd better get going, huh?"

"Yeah…" Angeal looked hesitant now, eying at the train. Genesis knew he was going to miss his mother.

That was his queue to start talking. Genesis walked forward, kicking his duffel bag again. "Onwards, then! We'll show them, won't we, Angeal?"

Angeal was still looking at the train, but he broke into a smile, and Genesis knew that his task had been fulfilled. Angeal wasn't getting cold feet anymore, and even if he was, Genesis was there for him. Everything else would work itself out.

"Yeah," Angeal replied, glancing back at Genesis.

Gillian looked at him with a smile. "You'll look after my boy, won't you, Genesis?"

Genesis blinked at the request, seeing Angeal blush slightly in embarrassment at his mother's words. Sometimes he did feel sorry for Angeal, what with how protective a close mother could be.

Still, it drastically improved his mood. Genesis beamed. "Of course, madame! You have nothing to worry about while he's with me. I'll keep him out of any trouble."

Gillian smiled widely at him. "That's good." Then, taking Genesis completely by surprise, she wrapped him in a crushing hug.

Genesis' eyes went wide as Angeal beamed.

"You stay out of trouble, too, alright?" Gillian teased him.

Hugging someone else's mom was awkward, but… Genesis broke into a genuinely grateful smile as he gently put his hands against her back. "Yeah. I promise, Mrs. Hewley."

Gillian nodded, content, and released him.

Genesis found himself smiling into her face, level with his. Maybe it wasn't really so bad that his parents weren't here. He seemed to have everything he needed right here, after all.

"Well, get a move on, you two!" Gillian urged, waving them on. "Don't stand here all day on my account. You two have a train to catch."

As one, they nodded. Angeal carefully, reverently secured the sword to his bags as Genesis finally picked up the duffel bag he had been abusing since their arrival, and they hesitantly drew away from Gillian.

As they arrived at the entrance to the train and had their tickets punched, Genesis found himself glancing back.

Gillian stood watching them, smiling reassuringly. Gods, he never understood how someone who loved Angeal so much could let him go like that. Genesis had been so bad when he was younger he had been jealous of Angeal's affection for his mom, let alone him hanging out with other kids. It was lucky there was no one else in their age group in Banora, or else he would have gotten into even more fist fights as a child.

Gillian saw him looking, and, in her uncanny way, sensed what he was feeling. She smiled widely and waved.

I'll be alright. Go. You made me a promise, after all.

"Come on, Gen." Angeal had stopped next to him, looking back, too. But he understood his mom easily, and always had. "Let's go."

Genesis blinked, then nodded. "Right. Yes, let's get going." Putting a wide grin on his face, he swept a theatrical bow to Gillian, tipped his imaginary hat, and boarded the train, hearing Angeal chuckling next to him.

And that made it all worth it.

Genesis hurried after his friend as to stash their bags. Without conscious thought, one of his favorite lines from Loveless danced across his mind. Infinite in mystery is the gift of the goddess. We seek it thus, and take to the sky! Next stop: Midgar!

~Earlier That Morning~

He was cleaning the mix of dried blood, rust, and grime off his sword when there was a low tone from his cellphone. With a quiet sigh, the general of the Shinra armies set his blade aside and picked up the chirping device, throwing a quick glance at the screen as he flipped it open.

Not a phone call. A summons. New orders in the communication center. The fact that they were not relayed to him upon his arrival meant that they had to come from either the director, or someone higher.

There was no time to waste, then. With a silent apology to Masamune, he resheathed the blade, picked up his bag from where it had laid, still packed, for the last three hours, and swiftly departed the empty room he had been allotted when he had arrived at the forward command center that morning.

Orders from above meant he would be moving. He often returned to the forward command center between missions, but never stayed for more than half a day. They could never leave him in such an inactive sector for long.

It was a relief. The front lines he could take. It gave him an outlet. Here he had to wait, and wait, and sit still until his orders returned. The only thing that kept him sane during such transition times was helping the groups heading out when he could. Otherwise he would be locked in his room, cleaning and recleaning the blood off his sword, even after it was long gone. It had happened before.

Especially after he'd lost a squad.

Gods he hated waiting after others had died next to him. Every time he was brought back those first few days were the same. He was the general; he had to move on. Keep going. There was still a war to fight. Let the dead sleep. Don't disturb them with feelings. Lock it all away where it wouldn't touch anyone.

He knew all this. He had learned it the hard way. So then why was he such an idiot that he couldn't control his heart, and wavered every time? He was stronger than that, wasn't he? He could hide his feelings from everyone, but he couldn't hide it from himself.

With a soft sigh, he paused outside the com center, carefully adjusting his emotionless expression. When he was certain no one could see anything reflected in his eyes, he walked calmly and confidently into the room.

There were others within, but he ignored them. Instead, he walked through, to the back conference room where the secure communication link was. It was from this system that important orders were issued, so as to avoid any intel leaks.

Sephiroth entered his passcode, and a video link whirred to life. Several scrolling codes on the bottom told him it was from SOLDIER program hq in Midgar.

Lazard, then.

A moment later and the SOLDIER director turned to him, framed in the tv screen. Sephiroth inclined his head in greeting. He could see the mounds of papers invading the director's desk, and Lazard was sorting through things even as he greeted his top SOLDIER.

"Good to see you, General." Lazard nodded, a recognition of Sephiroth's prompt answer to the summons. Thankfully, as he often did with Sephiroth, Lazard skipped superfluous pleasantries and got straight to the point. "You're ordered back to Midgar. For transportation, you'll be attached to the 334th and 465th infantry battalions who are coming in. Take off is in an hour."

Sephiroth nodded. "I understand, sir."

Lazard smiled. He looked slightly harried, as if there were four or so people demanding his attention. It was very likely to be true. "I will debrief you upon your arrival. I look forward to seeing you Shinra-side."

"Thank you, sir," Sephiroth replied automatically.

Lazard glanced over his shoulder, at someone Sephiroth couldn't hear. "Dismissed, then. Safe voyage."

Sephiroth reached up and deactivated the video link as Lazard did the same. So, it was back to Midgar, then. For once, the steel city was a slight relief. He could use a bit of a break. He was wound too tight after the last mission. A week or two away from Wutai might let him regain control of himself and return with a clear head.

55 minutes later found him standing on the helicopter landing strip, waiting silently for the infantry battalions to arrive so they could start the long air trip back to the other continent. Sephiroth watched the sky quietly, appreciating the slight wind in his hair.

Marching feet behind him made him glance over his shoulder. There, right on schedule, were the infantry soldiers. Sephiroth watched them march onto the landing strip, picking out the two different groups as they split and stood at attention. Judging by the look of these two units, he understood why they were being brought back. Usually, a single battalion had forty men. There were only possibly thirty-five here total. It looked like these men had lost a good number on their stint in the war. Odds were the groups of survivors were being returned to Midgar to be recombined into a new, functional battalion.

The two commanding officers sensed his eyes, as officers always did. Both of them spoke low words to the men and the lines quickly tightened into formal and strict order. Even the few wounded ones Sephiroth could pick out stood at attention.

He could see exhaustion, both mental and physical, written all over their features. Whatever they had done, whether it had gained or lost ground in the war, these men had given themselves to it fully, and now they were spent. Feeling it was his duty to at least acknowledge the lucky survivors in some way, Sephiroth inclined his head. "At ease."

There was a brief hesitation, but even that was an order from him. Slowly, then faster when he gave no objection, the tension left the exhausted soldiers, and low murmurs of conversation began to hum on the landing platform.

Sephiroth had turned away, ready to stare out at the sky and ignore whispers of his name, when there were footsteps behind him. Glancing over his shoulder brought him face to face with the younger of the two lieutenants. He looked very unsure of himself, but was standing determinedly near Sephiroth.

Admiring his courage somewhat; nearly everyone was put off by his silence, Sephiroth cocked his head slightly, half inviting, half ordering the man to speak.

The infantry soldier bit his lip, then looked up at Sephiroth. "Is it true, General? Are we going back to Midgar?" The relief in the question was evident in the trembling of his voice, despite any attempt to hide it.

Sephiroth blinked. It was very rare that he got to deliver such good news. The hope in that statement reminded him unpleasantly just how much he hated the war.

He nodded once. "Yes."

All formality forgotten for an instant, a wide, relieved grin spread across the battered man's face. He sighed contentedly. "Thank you, sir..." Then, walking back over to his men, the soldier smiled widely. "Guys, we're going home!"

There was a ragged and extremely heartfelt cheer.

Sephiroth blinked at the exchange. Home... It was so strange how, simply by changing the word, the return to Midgar seemed to hold so much more meaning for them than it did for him. He didn't understand.

The helicopters landed amid sighs of relief and even some tears. Sephiroth made his way to one of them, taking a seat in the back corner, so as to stay out of the way of the happy return of the infantry. Those who managed to enter the same helicopter considered themselves the luckiest men in the world, to be able to ride back home with the general himself.

Sephiroth didn't understand that very well, either. He spent the majority of the trip debating what exactly was meant by the word "home," and listening to the giddy relief and anticipation of the infantrymen who were coming out of the living hell of the war.

Homecoming... A small frown crept onto his face at the thought of those who would never have this, those who left their lives on the field. It was obvious many from these battalions had, as well. Fewer than half were coming back now.

I don't think I'll ever understand...why does the word "home" make the truth feel so different, and give this hope to the men?

There was no homecoming for him, he knew that. Just a return to the steel city and a totally different fight than the one he had temporarily left in the jungle.

As he looked out at the clouds moving by, Sephiroth mulled over the question. Despite every logical investigatory technique he tried, no understanding presented itself to him. Instead, he only arrived at a single, unhelpful conclusion.

Though he was still among the living, unlike the others he had gone out on the mission with, he wasn't coming home.

Why that weighed so heavily on his heart on his heart he still didn't understand.