Golden Gift

Chapter Seven: Three Generals

"Ed!" Genesis called out the moment Ed collapsed. He quickly knelt to the ground to help, but the blond convulsed, his body twisting unnaturally with each spasm. It was near impossible to catch his flailing limbs. His left leg, in particular, left cracks on the floor each time it landed.

"Move!" Sephiroth commanded when Ed started gagging and his golden eyes grew dull.

The silver-haired man quickly grabbed the diminutive professor's arms in one hand and pinned his thrashing legs with his knees. With his free hand he reached into his back pocket for a tranquilizer and stabbed it into the other's thigh. Ed's breath hitched, his body tensed briefly before slumping lifelessly to the ground.

"What happened?" Angeal asked quietly as he watched the soft rise and fall of the young man's chest.

"I don't know." Genesis frowned. "Ed's never been like this before."

"You're on first name bases with him?" Sephiroth raised a brow as he got off the blond. "Rare."

"Not the time." Genesis grunted as he hovered a hand over Ed. "Scan." A warm yellow light circled the unconscious young man before his statistics appeared above him.

"His vitals are green." Angeal murmured in confusion. "There's nothing wrong with him."

"It may be prudent to relocate him rather than treat him here on the landing pad." Sephiroth noted as he glanced at the nosy staff. Their eyes averted immediately.

"I could—" Angeal offered to carry Ed, but Genesis had already scooped up the young man, carefully cradling his head to his shoulder and stood. "Genesis, your injury…"

"It healed." Genesis said as he turned his heel. "Let's take him back to my quarters."

Sephiroth shared a glance with Angeal before they followed their auburn-haired friend.

"Are you sure? Last time, no magic could heal it—" Angeal paused when Genesis turned to him angrily.

"Ed is the only one that matters right now! If something happened to him. I…" Genesis gritted his teeth and turned away.

The raven-haired first stood stunned as he watched Genesis storm ahead. He's never seen his childhood friend act this way. Is it possible?

"Genesis seems quite fond of the professor." Sephiroth commented casually as he strolled pass the stunned raven-haired First. "And here I thought he'd fall in love with a mirror."

Angeal said nothing and followed. It was unthinkable. Genesis and the young professor? The young man wasn't even legal!

From the landing pad to the company garage, the three SOLDIER Firsts gathered plenty of stares and whispers from the morning rush. No one dared to step into the elevator while they occupied the space. If any of them bothered to listen, they could've heard the first round of gossip from the white-collared grapevine.

For the first time, Genesis hated the fact that there were only two elevators for the entire building. He should've taken the stairs.

o.o.o.o.o

Zack sighed dreamily as he made his way back to Shinra. Despite losing his materia and getting beaten in the most embarrassing manner, he met a wonderful girl and spent hours talking to her. It was almost enough to make him forgive that damn redheaded thief. Almost. One of these days, he will hunt him down and get his materia back, if the other hasn't already sold them off.

He would've spent the whole night hunting him down, but he had no clue where to start looking. Heck, he couldn't even hunt down the men that cracked his skull open the previous night. Just thinking about it made his head hurt, not that the injury was still there. He was a fast healer even before the mako injections.

Normally, Zack would've been in a daze until he reached the SOLDIER floor, but today something was different. There was something strange on the descending elevator on the other side. When he realized what he was seeing, he pounced and shoved his way to the glass despite the complaints of his fellow elevator riders.

"Ed?" He pressed his face against the glass for a better look, but the other elevator had descended too quickly. Zack moved to the elevator's panel, only to realize it would take forever for him to try to go back down. "Damn it!"

What's wrong with Ed? Who was that holding onto him? Zack grumbled in annoyance at every floor the elevator stopped on. If he was more familiar with each floor, he could've made his way to the stairs, but he rather not waste his time wandering and looking for the stairs. By the time he reached the SOLDIER floor he was ready to scream.

"Zack!" Kunsel called out to him the second he stepped out.

"Can't talk, gotta go find Ed. He got carried off by some guy in a red coat!" Zack said as he jogged around him and zipped towards the stairs.

Kunsel looked surprise for a second. "Huh… I guess the rumors spreading on the lower floors about the professor might have some truth to it."

Zack stopped in a screeching halt and glanced back. "Rumors about Ed? What rumors?"

"There's a rumor about General Rhapsodos and Professor Elric having a thing going on between them. Some say they're friends, but some of the more outrageous ones…well… I don't have to spell it out for you." Kunsel made a vague hand motion.

"…What does that have to do with anything?" Zack frowned.

"General Rhapsodos is known for his red coat." Kunsel explained. "You said a man in a red coat carried the professor off right? It's probably him."

Zack crossed his arms. "Then Ed should be fine with him right?"

"If the rumors are true, I don't think he would hurt him." Kunsel reasoned.

"Hmm…" The spiky-haired third scratched the side of his neck. "You city folks are weird. Two guys together never happens back in Gongaga."

"At least you're taking it better than some other country bumpkins." Kunsel commented.

"Hey! Who are you calling a country bumpkin?" Zack retorted.

"Did I say you were one?" Kunsel grinned.

Zack opened his mouth to argue, but snapped it close instead with a huff. "Since Ed's fine I guess I don't have to worry about him." He paused for a moment before an idea clicked in his mind. "Hey, Kunsel you're good at collecting info on people right?"

o.o.o.o.o

Static…

Mother? Why would… Ed struggled through his thoughts. Why was it so foggy? He can't think straight.

Help us. It's hurting us. The voice wisped.

What's hurting you? And what do you mean us? Ed asked.

My son… help me… help…he—

Wait! Ed called out as the voice faded and the screams returned.

Brother! Brother! A familiar voice shouted among the screams.

Al? AL! AL!

Static…

"AL!" Ed shouted as he jolted up in a cold sweat. He could see nothing but the sea of hazy green.

"Edward!" A familiar voice called out as an arm caught him and tried to stop his flailing. "Calm down!"

Ed's breathing labored as his vision slowly cleared and he was met with unfamiliar surroundings. He wasn't in the slums; the room was much nicer than what was available beneath the plate. Even the sheets he was sleeping on felt softer than anything he slept on the past two years. Where was he? What was he doing? How did he end up here?

"Edward?" Genesis' worried voice came through before he finally gathered his wits.

"Genesis?" Ed rasped out as he turned to him in confusion. "What…?" He paused with a frown as everything slowly came back to him. He sighed in annoyance as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Are you okay?" Genesis asked.

"Fine." Ed grumbled.

"Hardly fine, unless seizures and asphyxiations are regular occurrences for you." Sephiroth's smooth voice remarked.

Ed flinched and opened his eyes; he hadn't realized he and Genesis weren't alone. The only light in the room was the dull morning ray that crept through the window. Sephiroth stood by the door with his arms crossed, almost hidden by the shadows and Angeal was not far from him. The two kept their distance from the bed unlike Genesis who was halfway on the bed to keep Ed from flailing earlier.

"Is it a regular occurrence?" Angeal asked with concern.

"I'm fine!" Ed grunted as he climbed out of bed. "It's nothing you have to concern about."

"Sounds like you're in denial. That name you screamed, someone close I presume?" Sephiroth commented offhandedly.

"Sephiroth!" Angeal admonished him.

He paid him no heed. "I would say you lost him in a traumatic event, possibly one connected to your prosthetic leg. Just now when you woke, rather than feeling concerned and terrified over the fit, you looked annoyed. It would seem to be a common occurrence from how you answered to Angeal, but you were surprised when it happened. I wonder why is that?"

Ed stood straight and locked eyes with the man. He faced many opponents with his time traveling with Al and working for the state. Thieves, corrupt officials, murders, alchemists, chimeras, trained Xingian warriors, homunculi; the list could go on forever with how many people he faced in his life. Only few that could ever claim intimidation over him. Sephiroth was not one of them. Yet, the man did feel different, much different from anyone else he has ever met.

"If I didn't know better, general. I would think you're trying to go somewhere with this." Ed said calmly.

"Now why would I do that?" Sephiroth humored with a smirk. "I'm merely stating an observation."

"Sephiroth, that's enough." Genesis warned.

A soft chuckled escaped the silver-haired man. "You're possessive." Sephiroth uncrossed his arms and casually tossed a vial to Genesis.

Genesis caught it with one hand and glanced at the contents. "An elixir?" He said in confusion.

"For your injury, but if you're well, then you can save it for your dear professor." Sephiroth mused as he turned to leave the room. "We've waste plenty of time. I'm quite sure Lazard is probably wondering where we are."

Angeal glanced between them for a moment. "Are the two of you certain you're fine?"

"We're not children, Angeal." Genesis said in annoyance.

"You act like one at times." Angeal replied before turning to Ed. "Please excuse Sephiroth for his lack of tact. He could be surprisingly juvenile at times. Even if he doesn't look like the type."

Sephiroth raised a silver brow as if to query his choice of words.

Angeal rolled his eyes as if he knew what the other man was doing. "There's a glint in your eye every time you terrify Hojo's assistants. I know you secretly enjoy intimidating people, you sadist." He turned to leave. "But Sephiroth is right, we need to go. We'll show ourselves out Genesis. You two take it easy."

"You take after your mother more and more each day." Genesis said exasperatedly with his fingers pressed to his brow. "We're fine. Just leave."

"Looks like we've overstayed our welcome." Sephiroth mused as he strolled out. Angeal only chuckled before he followed.

"I thought they'd never leave." Genesis muttered. "Angeal is my oldest friend, but he could be quite obstinate, making him very frustrating at times. But I never thought Sephiroth…" He paused and glanced at the vial in his hand. "To offer such concern is a rare occurrence."

"It's strange." Ed murmured.

"For Sephiroth? Yes, it is." Genesis agreed.

"No, not that." Ed frowned in deep thought.

"Then what?" Genesis asked, but the other didn't respond. "Edward?"

Ed was trying to make sense of his encounter with the three generals and his dreams. What did Truth want him to do about them? It was obvious to him now that something big would happen with Sephiroth from all the dreams involving the man, but why wasn't Angeal or Genesis in those? Does something happen to them?

His meeting with Sephiroth was not what he expected. The man had an aggressive air around him that could easily intimidate the weak-willed and aggravate the strong. Ed was not unaffected. Had Sephiroth decided to instigate a fight, he might've jumped to arms and fought the man. Yet, Angeal and Genesis were not affected at all. Instead, they seemed at ease with Sephiroth in their bantering and reminiscing.

There was a connection, a reason why Truth would want him to focus on these three men. SOLDIER couldn't be the connection. He has met with others in his dreams before that had no connection to SOLDIER. Nanaki the guardian beast from Cosmo Canyon, Cid the astronaut from Rocket Town and he had a sinking feeling that little Tifa from Nibelhiem might be the girl waiting at the village entrance.

Sephiroth will one day be in Nibelhiem and if he was reading the dreams right, the general would cross paths with the others. What Ed doesn't get is the cause for them to meet. There were no connections or reason, why would Sephiroth encounter them? Even so, what bothered him most was that the dreams hinted no instance that Angeal or Genesis would be in these meetings. It chilled him to think what would happen to them.

Angeal was pleasant when he was not suffocating with his motherly tendency. Ed could see him as a family man much like Hughes. As for Genesis, annoying he may be at times with his LOVELESS obsession, he was still one of the few people he could call a friend in this world. Ed wasn't one to abandon his friends.

"Edward?" Genesis called his name again before he snapped out of his thoughts.

"Nothing. Forget I said anything." Ed said. "...What are your thoughts on Sephiroth?"

Genesis scoffs. "Ever the hero, I doubt anyone could say anything bad about Shinra's beloved Silver General. I have nothing against him as he is a friend, but sometimes he could be quite pretentious if he felt like it. I wouldn't mind knocking him down a peg or two. Why do you ask?"

"Just curious." Ed replied.

"About earlier…" Genesis started. "Is that how this Truth character contacts you?"

Ed frowned. "No, at least not normally. I don't know what that was." Genesis said nothing; it's obvious he's worried. "It's pointless to worry since nothing could be done to prevent it. Let's just hope the next time it happens, someone would be around."

"I don't like this." Genesis murmured. "It seems like something's at work against you."

"Or Truth is just being an ass." Ed shrugged. "Like I said, there's no point in worrying. We could use that time to find you a cure instead. How about it?"

Genesis sighed. "Sometimes I wonder whether you're generous or foolish."

"Sometimes being the fool isn't a bad thing." Ed grinned wryly. "Even when everyone's given up, they'll keep going even if there's the slightest chance of hope."

"Now you're just an idealist." Genesis drawled.

"And what's wrong with that?" Ed retorted.

Hopefully, Sephiroth has nothing to do with Angeal and Genesis' possible disappearance and Truth isn't asking for him to eliminate the silver-haired man. He doesn't doubt Truth's cruelty to take away what was precious to a person and it wouldn't be the first time for him to ask for the elimination of someone. After all, his first assignment was to eliminate some being named Jenova.

Jenova… Who or what was Jenova? Why did Truth want him to eliminate it earlier? He will have to look into it further for more answers. Maybe then, he'll make sense of all this.

o.o.o.o.o

CM Aeris: Thanks for everyone who reviewed and alerted in the last chapter. I'll try my best to continue writing. I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I've enjoyed writing the misunderstood relationship between Ed and Genesis. I wonder how long before they catch wind of the rumor mill? Until next time!