Summary: Freshly divorced, jobless, and hectically falling in love with someone he shouldn't be, Angeal finds himself spilling his life story at 3AM to curious, blue-eyed waiter. AngealxCloud
Disclaimer: I don't own anything but the plot, dialogue, characterizations, and words of this story. (Isn't that a lot? Man, I'm really bad at writing disclaimers.)
The Sun at Night
Beneath Midgar's plate, it was always nighttime- always eerily dark. But come midnight, one could feel the shift in the air; thickening, tensing, heaving, rolling itself into a condensed mass of anticipation. The metallic sky of Sector 8 became less oppressive and more of a safeguard, hiding what went on below from disapproving eyes.
Beneath that pseudo shield, Midgar's residents were roaming the streets. Each individual searching for something—specifics and generalities alike, those unspoken and unheard of things. Sex. Perhaps a deeper form of companionship—just something. Most of them didn't even know what that something was
Such was Angeal Hewley, who found himself at a corner booth of a tiny diner towards the back roads of Sector 8. Still dressed in the white collared shirt and black slacks of his earlier daytime endeavors, Angeal stunk of dried sweat—a sour, bitter thing. He had been job hunting, jumping from office to office in a desperate search for something to wrap his thick fingers around. With four interviews and having scheduled three more for this weekend, it could have easily been said that he was successful.
Angeal thought otherwise. Every interview was rather bland, too smooth; he felt he shouldn't be so good at smiling and answering questions he could care less for.
Two weeks prior, the tall man had quit his job. Simply up and quit. He hadn't particularly put any thought into it; he just stood up one day, went to his boss, and declared, "I'm leaving."
That was two weeks ago and at first it was a relieving feeling, like some sluggish slime had squelched its way off his neck and slithered away. The feeling lasted less than a week, however, and Angeal found himself hanging his head again, not sure how he wanted to see the world in front of him or what it was he didn't want to see.
For a week, the 32 year old had lounged as he felt he rightfully should: no work, no strings, no burdens, no coincidental encounters that would send his mind gyrating out of control. He deserved this break, Angeal convinced himself. But he was never a man to play at idleness. Past day 6, he could feel his fingers itching. He wanted to do something. And after an anticlimactic departure from his job of ten years, Angeal was on the streets again searching for employment while trying to hide his anxiety.
He was too proud to go back to Director Lazard and ask for his job back.
So here he was, his large body cramped between a red plush seat and a gray table, poring over a newspaper looking for employment offers. A half empty cup of coffee sat abandoned next to a ketchup bottle, looking forlorn.
Driving delivery trucks cross country, tutoring elementary kids, filling out online surveys, nothing caught Angeal's eyes as he took in every last miniscule printed letter. He sighed and then finally gave up, neatly folding up the newspaper and slipping it back into his shoulder bag.
A quick glance at his wristwatch informed him of the time. 2:56 AM. He groaned—the night was only half over. It'd be a good three hours until the sun even bothered knocking on the top floor of Shinra's HQ, and even longer until anyone else bothered to acknowledge it. Angeal was exhausted, but stubbornly, he refused to return home.
His gray blues did a quick scan of the room: a girl was reading a thick book a couple booths down, salary men fresh from the office sat lonesome and scattered, nibbling on whatever they had ordered. Angeal duly noted that at this time of night, people had fewer qualms about coming to eat alone. He found himself curious, why were they here, why weren't they home, why weren't they searching the streets for amusement, guffawing and drunk?
Why did his waiter look so grumpy?
When Angeal had first stepped in at some ungodly time closer to midnight, his blue eyed, uniformed waiter had presented him with a menu and the per usual, "Welcome to Gino's" before leading the older man towards his designated booth. The entire time, the young man was frowning, a pert tilt of the lips and furrow of the brows. A charmer, that one.
As Angeal ordered his hash and ham, he had thought at first that the waiter's unhappiness was directed at him but after a couple hours, he soon realized that the frown was just something plastered to his face. Perhaps the young man wasn't disgruntled about anything at all. Perhaps, it was simply how his face chose to present itself.
Regardless, with fluffy blond spikes and bright blue eyes, Cloud—as his name tag exploited—was attractive. Extremely so. With a thin face, smooth skin, and toned body, Angeal couldn't say he minded watching Cloud refill his Cup of Joe every forty two minutes. Unfortunately, the burly man's mind was filled with too many cock-wilting anxieties for sexual conquests. He just wasn't really interested in trying to woo this boy into his bed and was much less interested in getting into a relationship. The thought itself sent him into his own frowning mess.
"Angeal Hewley," he whispered to himself. "Lingering at a three star diner like a runaway teenager. What are you doing?"
"Angeal Hurley, huh?"
The black haired man looked up to see his ever-grumpy waiter standing expectantly with a pot of coffee in his right hand, his left weaving its way through the pockets of his uniform black Dickies. "It's Hewley, actually."
Cloud shrugged. "So, Mr. Hewley. Another refill? Or are you going to hike home."
Under other circumstances, Angeal would have taken offense thinking the waiter was not so subtly trying to kick him out. But Cloud was a bit different. He spoke a bit nonchalantly, his words carrying no harm, a sort of matter-of-fact. The black haired man found it oddly refreshing.
Grabbing his empty cup where it lay forgotten, Angeal held it up to the blond. "A refill if you'd please, Mr… Cloud."
"Strife. Cloud Strife."
Cloud Strife curtly took the cup from Angeal's palm and into his own, fingers brushing purposefully. Angeal noticed that the blonde's fingers had slight, subtle calluses in comparison to his own thick, rough ones.
"We're not a three-star diner, by the way." Angeal perked a brow. "We don't have any stars. If we did, we'd probably be two, anyway."
The older man's murky blue eyes met Cloud's own clear ones, and he smiled. That quirk of Cloud's lip, that soft raise of his eyebrows, and that squint of his eyes—Angeal didn't realize the stoic boy could tell jokes. He winked and replied, "The food maybe. But the service, five stars."
An indignant snort had Cloud scrunching up his nose in a way that seemed alien and awkward on his effeminate face. "Don't push your luck old man." Cloud plopped down the cup of coffee. "Anything else besides a refill? Your last chance—my shift ends at three."
Angeal had to wonder about that last chance. "I'm good, thank you. Mr. Strife. Perhaps I'll have to take you up on that offer some other time."
"I wasn't aware there'd be some other time."
"Who knows? Anything could happen."
"Quite the optimist aren't you?"
The frown returned to Cloud's face and Angeal conjured one of his own—he found the younger man much more attractive without it. They stayed quietly staring at each other almost comfortably, with Cloud curiously eyeing him and Angeal holding his gaze firmly.
"Some other time, then."
"Yes. Some other time," Angeal confirmed.
Cloud eyed him again, blinked, nodded, and then walked away, half full coffee pot still dangling from his right hand. Angeal watched him disappear into the aluminum doors of the kitchen and sighed. The most amused he'd been in the last two weeks scurried away within a matter of seconds and once more, he found himself idle and aimless.
By 3:18AM, Angeal had stared out the window; stared at the diner's other occupants, drained his cup of coffee, and had now (poorly) settled with a paperback novel he had bought on a random whim the day before. It was a tattered soul with bent corners, white crease lines on the back, and musky yellow pages. The thing smelled vaguely of dog urine.
Angeal was skimming through the prologue when someone plopped down across from him. It was Cloud, out of uniform. The gaudy checkered vest and atrocious off-white polo had been replaced with a simple heather-gray pull-over sweater. He haphazardly threw his sports bag on the remainder of the seat he didn't occupy. Catching the inquiring look the man was shooting him, Cloud shrugged and answered, "Some other time."
"I wasn't aware that some other time would be so soon." Over the yellow tips of the novel, Angeal and Cloud held their second staring contest. There was something in those sky-blue eyes that Angeal found nearly challenging, as if this stranger wanted to provoke him, uncover every last vulnerable piece of him.
Again, Cloud's eyes squinted, and Angeal took it as another of the bewildering man's smiles.
"Who knows? Anything could happen," Cloud quoted. Challenging, indeed. The blond continued, "Or is this 'anything' unwelcome to you, Mr. Hewley?"
For the first time in a while, Angeal found himself chuckling good naturedly and as he grinned back. "Your presence is most welcome, Mr. Strife." The novel was quickly forgotten. "Do you always work so late?"
Cloud nodded. "Normally."
"Ah. Do you usually grace your late customers with your presence like this? Or am I the special exception?"
"An exception." Cloud paused, and added. "Not especially special."
Angeal was laughing again, in jagged staccato bursts. Perhaps it was all the coffee he had drunk but as his chest rumbled, he felt exceptionally full. As if he could laugh and burst, explode and smother Cloud in a rain of bloody guts—it wasn't a particularly good or bad feeling.
"You have a way with words, sir. Might I ask why you decided to accompany me on this dark night, then?"
For the first time he'd seen that night, Cloud hesitated. His lips pursed tightly for a moment, and he shifted his gaze out the diner window at the black, black depths of a Midgar night. It was a long ten seconds until he spoke. "You looked lonely."
If Cloud had said it lightheartedly, Angeal would have laughed that horribly full laugh again. If he had said it in his usual matter-of-fact drawl, Angeal would have brushed it off and trudged on. But the boy had done neither. It was a sort of hollow voice, laced with something Angeal grudgingly recognized as pity. He looked lonely, huh?
"What makes you say that? That I look lonely."
"You just do."
"And these people," Angeal swept his palm across the room, gesturing to the diner's other night occupants, and asked, "They don't look lonely to you?"
"Those people. They look tired. You look," Cloud paused, not in hesitation this time but in confusion. He bit his bottom lip in thought. "Beaten."
Angeal didn't know how to react. How could he have? His waiter, a complete stranger, had just told him he looked beaten- in other words, forlorn, empty, drained, crushed, like he had failed. It was an odd sentiment. And instead of feeling infuriated, misjudged, or pathetically self-pitying, Angeal felt vaguely curious.
"You have a good eye then, Strife. I can't say lady luck's been on my side lately."
"Something in common then."
"I don't know." There was a hint of playfulness in Angeal's voice, and a bitter, strained smile on his face as if he didn't know how he wanted his lips to curl. "I got to say, I've been having it quite bad lately."
"Alright, prepare yourself." Fiddling with the beaten novel between his thick fingers, Angeal mused that those words were aimed at himself more than anything. He heaved in a gulp of air and began his ramble.
"I divorced my wife of four years a little over a month ago. It wasn't exactly a bitter, dramatic affair—we both knew it'd happen sometime. Thing is, you see, we never really loved each other. Immense respect and care, but not exactly love. Her name's Elena, by the way. She was in love with her boss back then, and at the time, I was in denial about my sexuality because well…I'm gay." Angeal paused, waiting to gauge Cloud's reaction to the news, but the blond didn't even blink in the slightest.
"In the end, we kind of just got together for some comfort. Marriage was a bit of a stretch though, and so finally we broke it off. I guess being gay isn't such a big deal. I think, at least. It was a big deal at the company though. Gossip spreads like wildfire there. Getting divorced made me sort of come face to face with me being gay and I finally came to realize that I was—am—was? Well I held love for someone I shouldn't have held it for. Part of me thinks I still do, I'm not sure."
Nervously, as if he didn't know how to coerce the words out of his mouth, Angeal cleared his throat. A large hand wound its way through his hair, dirty and oily from not showering since the last morning. Drearily, he noted that this wasn't like him at all.
"An old friend. Achildhood friend to be precise. I've known him since I was just a child. We grew up together down south in a village named Banora. Have you heard of it?"
Cloud shook his head.
"Well, we grew up there—best of friends. I guess I never really realized I loved him until it was too late. He's with one another friend of ours now and they're happy, which is great. I'm probably just a bit sore about it all. About two weeks ago, I just up and quit my job. The three of us all worked together in the same office and I guess I just couldn't take it anymore and I ran away." Angeal laughed hoarsely, voice cracking. "Now this old man's jobless, spending his nights at three-star diners because he doesn't want to go home to an empty house. A bit pathetic, no?"
Angeal jerked his head back to meet with Cloud's unwavering gaze; he hadn't expected the boy to be so blunt.
"It's two-stars, by the way."
It was quiet for a while. Cloud stared out the black, black window again and Angeal aimlessly flipped through the yellow pages of his book, catching random, nonsensical words. The fact that he had just stuck a fork in his chest, messily torn it open, and heaved his innards onto a diner table seemed to elude him. At this time of night, in this kind of darkness, everything was too surreal. Angeal, realistic, level-headed Angeal, had trouble soaking it in to his pores.
It was 3:53AM by now and the girl with the thickset book had packed up her belongings and disappeared out the glass doors. Similarly, the late white-collar workers had hailed taxis home. With the exception of an elderly couple slurping up yolk from sunny side up eggs, the diner was empty. Distantly, Angeal wondered how different the diner must be during the day. It'd be loud, he figured, noisy and rambunctious. Full of strangers giggling and shouting and quiet, quaint, brutally honest Cloud wouldn't be there.
To Angeal's surprise, it was quiet, quaint, brutally honest Cloud that spoke first. "I never knew my father. He left some time after I was born and my mother died about seven years ago in a fire. I moved to Midgar with a childhood friend of my own. For a while I suffered from Mako addiction but I sobered up when I broke up with my ex. He was a part of the Turks. Once I pick up enough money running night shifts here, I plan on opening up a delivery service." Cloud stuffed his hands into the pockets of his sweater and ignored Angeal's wide eyes. "I don't want to go home because my house is empty."
Amazed, Angeal let all the information sink in. Mako was a popular drug that had been taking over the streets for a while and the Turks were the leading gang in distributing them. How this blond, blue-eyed boy would be caught up in something so dramatic and grungy escaped him. What amazed him more was that Cloud had said all this in his usual bland, matter-of-fact tone.
Cloud turned to look at him once more, and Angeal found himself, again, lost as to how to react. They were beating each other down with their eyes, some unspoken war going on between their irises; Angeal lost it. He was laughing again, deep and throaty, that full feeling suddenly astonishingly delightful within the recesses of his stomach. With his eyes squeezed shut in mirth, he almost missed the small smile playing across Cloud's lip.
After his bout of laughter milked itself dry, Angeal sighed heartily and leaned against the glass window plane, legs spread casually on the rest of the booth's seat. Smiling at Cloud, he said, "We're a bit screwed up aren't we?"
"Just a bit."
The two sat there for long minutes and long hours and their long silences would be interrupted at random intervals when one of them shattered it, obliterated it, crushed it beneath their small smiles. Then they'd leisurely build them up again.
Angeal found out that Cloud liked chocobos, the color blue, motorcycles, and that he had just turned twenty-one a couple months ago. Cloud discovered that Angeal liked puppies, apples, Spring, and owned a cabin up north near Icicle Inn. They enjoyed movies, Wutaian takeout, had a soft spot for kids, and abhorred morning people with a passion. And more than anything, they enjoyed talking to each other, although one spoke in a horribly constructive manner and the other hardly spoke at all.
At 6:00AM they were both jolted out of their conversation concerning the difference between mice and rats by a shrill screeching of Angeal's phone. Hastily, he dragged it out of his slacks and slammed it silent. "My alarm," he clarified. His eyes widened in surprise and as he turned to Cloud who waited patiently. "It's six in the morning."
Both of Cloud's brows rose in a gesture that Angeal took as surprise. Slowly, Angeal was learning all of Cloud's subtle quirks of expression.
"When you're having fun?" Angeal grinned.
Again Cloud snorted, scrunching his nose up in that absurd way. "No."
Six o' clock in the morning. The very thought of it seemed ludicrous to Angeal. Down here in Sector 8, there was no difference of whether it was night or day. Regardless, it was dark. But in the back of Angeal's head he realized that somewhere, up beyond yards of metal plating, the sun was up and shining—warming the air, selfishly and selflessly grabbing onto everything it could touch. He cast his eyes back at the twenty-one year old, soon to be delivery boy in front of him. The bright blue eyes and blond hair had him thinking cheesy metaphors about suns and night skies.
The sun rose.
Angeal watched quietly as Cloud finally stood and gathered his belongings, stepping out of the confines of seat and table. With his sports bag strung over one shoulder, hair a nighttime mess, eyes finally showing fatigue, and dirty sneakers, Cloud looked normal. He didn't look like he had just spent a whole night talking to a stranger, didn't look like he had been addicted to drugs and was going through withdrawal symptoms, didn't look like he belonged down here in the darkness of Midgar at all. But he was. And at the end of it all, Angeal was happy for that.
Angeal, the 32 year old, unemployed man suffering from unrequited love with a childhood friend, wondered what he should do. Perhaps drag Cloud down by the collar of his sweater and smother him senseless in kisses, maybe pat him on the shoulder, maybe shake his hand, maybe jump up on the table and do a jig for him then rip down his pants and smack him upside the head with a flaccid penis.
But he did none of these and just nodded at the blonde. "Some other time?"
In return, Cloud squinted his eyes, twitched his lips up in that small, quaint smile of his.
"Yeah. Some other time."
Well, that was the first fanfic I've written in about a year. I was thinking about perhaps continuing this into a twoshot or something to really develop Cloud and Angeal's relationship (and actually, really make it a romance. Ahem.) At the same time though, I feel this alone has a sense of completion to it and is fine as it is. *sigh* I'm being indecisive again. What do you guys think?
p/s: Immense, never-ending thanks to underhandlilies and shadesofimagination who beta read this for me!